Hannah Cotten was selected to present this weekend about research conducted by her fifth grade students at the Texas Academy of Science Annual Meeting. This annual meeting highlights scientists around the state and their current scientific processes and results.
Last year, her students conducted their first year of researching and surveying the microscopic animals on their campus. Their favorite microscopic animal is the Tardigrade, or water bear. Tardigrades are tough microscopic animals that live in lichen and moss. They are famous for cryptobiosis, the ability to desiccate and shrivel into a flake of dust called a “tun” as their habitat dries out, thus surviving long periods without moisture.
They asked the scientific question, “Are there more tardigrades in lichen or moss?” The students learned how to collect samples, use microscopes, find tardigrades, make slides, and identify species. Hill fifth graders not only answered their original scientific question, but also discovered a tardigrade never seen before in the state of Texas! Finding a species never seen before in a state is publishable and adds to the biodiversity data for the state. Also, finding this species in Texas is now considered the fourth record of occurrence of this species in all of North America. Mrs. Cotten and her students are currently writing and editing a manuscript on their results they hope will be published soon.
Because tardigrades are not widely known and few scientists are studying them, there is huge opportunity for Hill students to be on the forefront of this field and contribute new information that can aid in our understanding of this phyla. Mrs. Cotten’s after school science club known as “The Water Bears” have continued their research and have found many more tardigrades in their second year of study. They are working on identifying the species in hopes of answering their scientific question as well as potentially adding another record for the state. Mrs. Cotten presented about the student’s process, results, and The Water Bear Club at the Texas Academy of Science Annual Meeting. Many scientists and professors were very interested in the work being done in Mrs. Cotten’s Water Bear Club and want to collaborate with Hill students. We anticipate more great news of their future discoveries and new collaborations with professional scientists.