Daniel Crair and Kelsey Peeples are just about to start their sophomore year in high school, but they already are published authors.
Daniel, at Coral Reef High School, and Kelsey, at Killian High, recently published the results of an experiment on climate change in the Journal of Emerging Investigators, a nonprofit science publication produced by graduate students at Harvard University.
The experiment, Is Cloud Cover One of the Effects of Climate Change?, took almost two years of research and revisions in order to be approved and published by the journal.
The journal aims to guide middle school and high school students in research projects and teaches them how to transform science fair experiments into scientific manuscripts.
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“Our goal is to teach them early on how to communicate their awesome science with the scientific community and the general population as a whole,” said Danielle Heller, a doctoral student in microbiology and co-editor-in-chief of the journal.
The journey began for Daniel and Kelsey the summer going into their eighth-grade year at South Miami Middle Community School. The two volunteered to be included in an experimental summer science camp led by South Miami Middle science teachers Suzanne Banas and Dora Pilz, where they along with 12 other students excelling in science would have the opportunity to have a more in-depth coverage of topics like climate change.
It was at this science camp that Daniel and Kelsey first partnered up to complete their climate-change experiment with the hopes of entering it into the science fair.
The experiment's goal was to investigate the effects of cloud cover and see if cloud cover would act as a “shield to insolation” or in layperson’s terms, allow the earth to cool.
According to Banas, Daniel and Kelsey borrowed equipment from a scientist in Pennsylvania.
The equipment collected data 24 hours a day, seven days a week, producing about 280 sheets of data in one week alone.
“We created these setups that collected data like insolation, reflective temperature, and heat index,” Banas explained. “Every week [Kelsey] would go with me and download data for eight weeks. It took about two hours for all the spots. But, we only really had four weeks of good data. One week a raccoon pulled out the wires, and even if we tried to put it in an inconspicuous place, it still got disturbed.”
Both Daniel and Kelsey had to learn to calibrate the equipment and how to use an Excel spreadsheet. It took constant meetings and sessions to sit down and interpret the data and discover how it could help support or disprove their initial hypothesis.
Once the first round of research was conducted, Daniel and Kelsey experienced their first recognition once they entered their experiment into the 2012 District Science Fair and received the highest award possible, a “superior.”
However, Daniel and Kelsey weren’t done there. Once Banas learned of JEI and its goal to publish middle and high school students’ work, she suggested her students convert some of their science fair experiments into full fledged scientific manuscripts.
But this task proved harder than expected, as the two went through various rounds of revisions and even had to complete more research and trials to modify their experiment.
The pair submitted their first manuscript in March 2013, but were not published until March of the following year.
“It was very difficult to stay motivated,” Daniel said. “I was taking ninth grade classes and I had a lot of homework. Kelsey and I stuck together because in the end we would be making science. This is uncharted territory and we would be making a difference. It would be much more gratifying than if we just stopped working.”
Daniel recounts the Christmas break of his freshman year where they were still in a revision process and the editors at JEI had asked them to redo their entire manuscript.
“They basically said: ‘Do all of this by the time you return.’ So we had to sit all through break and review the entire manuscript. I remember being really unmotivated but I stuck through it,” said Daniel.
Daniel said he would go through the process again, even after the “grueling hours,” because he felt that in the end it really did pay off and make a difference.
According to editor Heller, this is exactly the attitude they hope to inspire in youth today.
“By recognizing the hard work these students are doing and giving them the rush of seeing their name in print we hope to foster a growing love and respect for science,” he said. “They are the scientists, policymakers, and voters of the future, and thus it is extremely important that they have a deep understanding of and a personal familiarity with the scientific process.”