Lionfish related Discovery by Sixth Grade Student Surprises Conservationists

Lauren Arrington has discovered that lionfish can also survive in nearly fresh water, which has surprised conservationists who always believed that the invasive species could not survive in less saline water.

When Lauren started to study the lionfish for her sixth grade science fair, she did not know that her discovery would one day overwhelm conservationists. She started to study the creature with the help of her father, who has a Ph.D. in fish ecology. She initially thought that lionfish would not be able to survive in water with salinity less than 12 parts per 1,000. This level of salinity is one-third of the ocean salinity.

Lauren reduced the salinity beyond that and reached to six parts per 1,000. She was surprised to find that the fish was doing really well. However, Lauren decided not to further reduce the salinity, fearing that might kill the fish. North Carolina State University ecology professor Craig Layman tried to make use of findings available from the study of Lauren. He built upon her findings and found that the invasive lionfish is well capable of surviving in nearly fresh water.

This means, lionfish can migrate upstream from estuaries and alter the inland ecosystem. Conservationists are very impressed with the work of sixth-grader Lauren Arrington that has helped them understand that Florida's ecosystem may be experiencing some major changes because of an invasive species.

"Scientists were doing plenty of tests on them, but they just always assumed they were in the ocean. So I was like, 'Well, hey guys, what about the river?" said Lauren, now 13 years old.

Lauren used six different tanks to put the fish and reduced salinity of water for a period of two weeks. She ultimately found that lionfish have great potential to live in nearly fresh water.

Lauren Arrington