MONTE VISTA — Seventeen-year-old Marissa Martinez is excited that her Monte Vista High School science project has gone so far.
“I started my science project last July, and honestly, I wasn't really into environmental stuff, until my teacher Ms. (Loree) Harvey dragged me out and said, 'Let’s go do science' and I was like OK,” said Marissa, who is a junior at MVHS. "The first project I ever did though with science was my sophomore year. I did something with eggs, and my science teacher Ms. Harvey took me to a hatchery, and the guy donated eggs to me and I did really well with this project. With the project that I did my sophomore year, I was also able to intern with the Bureau of Land Management. During the summer, the BLM said we have all these issues here with our wildlife in one area, and I was like OK, I can turn this into a Science Fair project. I took this project to regionals and took first place in my category. I also got ISEF recognition, which is huge.”
The International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. The fair is held in May every year and began in 1950. The fair is directed by the Society for Science. Each year, the fair awards tuition grants, internships, and grand prizes of $50,000 and $75,000 in college scholarships. Martinez took first place in Environmental Sciences, as an ISEF finalist at the Colorado Science and Engineering Fair.
"When they announced I was a finalist for ISEF. I was like wow, I really did this," Marissa said. "I looked around at all the other projects, and there were projects on cancer, and just like all these other intense topics, so when I looked at my project, I really couldn’t believe they chose mine as a finalist. Then when they announced that the finalists of this award would also go to Atlanta in May, I was just stunned."
The title of her project is “A Habitat Assessment Protocol to Determine Suitability for Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Occupancy in the Northern Rio Grande Watershed.”
Marissa explained that she found her project interesting because it presents a problem and a solution. Martinez talked about all the extensive research she put in, adding that it was not an easy project to put together.
“It was a ton of data analysis, but I really had fun putting it together,” she said.
Marissa worked for hours on the project and was proud that her hard work paid off.
“It's unbelievable to think I am going beyond state with this, I always thought state was it for me. I am still really shocked about it,” she said.
Marissa is a student of MVHS science teacher Loree Harvey. Harvey was recently named Teacher of the Year by the Monte Vista School District.
In 2019, Harvey was selected for the Society for Science and the Public 2019-2020 Advocate Grant Program. The Advocate Grant Program helps encourage adult educators to mentor middle and high school students by helping them conduct scientific research and enter and compete in research competitions.
Marissa spoke highly of Harvey and said that without Harvey, she could not have gone this far.
“Ms. Harvey is so awesome," Marissa said. "She has opened so many doors for me. I am proud of how far I have come. I really owe so much of this to her. She takes kids and shows them biology, she shows them science. Before Ms. Harvey helped me, I didn’t realize this was something I was even interested in, but after she took me outdoors, I was like I am an outdoors kid, I really love this. This is my path. I want to do something with biology. I am thinking maybe zoology and wildlife. It is so neat to have Ms. Harvey as a mentor, and great friend. She is a really good role model and has influenced me so much. I didn’t start out wanting to do this, but now I definitely want to do this. I am really stoked about Atlanta. Even if I don’t win over there, just to go this far, yeah, it’s pretty awesome and amazing.”
The International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is May 8-13 in Atlanta.