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Excellence in Geoscience Awards - NM Science and Engineering Fair

well-related photo

Faris Wald (top) and Cameron D. Zielinski (bottom)

Socorro, NM
— April 5, 2017

The Excellence in Geoscience Award was given to two NM high-school students for their presentations at the NM Science and Engineering Fair on April 1, 2017. The awards are jointly sponsored by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and New Mexico Geological Society.

The Junior winner is:
Faris Wald
Capshaw Middle School
Teacher/Sponsor: Christy Krenek
Title: The Correlation Between Solar Coronal Hole Occurrences and the Formation of Tropical Cyclones


This science fair project reviewed the correlation between Solar Sunspots and Coronal Hole occurrences to the formation of Tropical Cyclones.

The Internet was accessed to find solar data regarding Sunspots and Coronal Hole events and the worldwide occurrences of Tropical and Extra-Tropical Cyclones for each year.

Multiple figures were used to show the correlation between the number of yearly worldwide Tropical and Extra-Tropical Cyclones and the yearly number of either Sunspots or Coronal Holes. The first figure indicates that Sunspots & Sunspot area have no influence on the number of yearly Tropical and Extra-Tropical events. The second figure indicates that yearly Tropical and Extra-Tropical Cyclones from 2003 to 2014 follow the same trend line as the number of Coronal Holes from 2003 to 2014. As more and more Tropical Cyclone data of varying intensity was added to the figure, the slope of the linear fit converged on a -1.1 events/year which is nearly identical to the slope of Coronal Hole linear fit in occurrences/year for the same calendar years, 2003-2014.

The two data sets, when plotted against one another, show an apparent time lag of approximately one year. Meaning that a Coronal Hole number increase will produce a corresponding increase in observed formation of Tropical and Extra-Tropical Cyclones the following year. Two models to predict future year worldwide cyclone number based on present year Coronal Hole observations are displayed. The accuracy of the two models is presented within the accompanying science journal.

The Senior winner is:
Cameron D. Zielinski
Rio Rancho High School
Teacher/Sponsor: Jennifer Miyashiro
Title: Do Mine Spills Really Destroy the Environment? Phase II


The Gold King Mine spill that occurred on August 5th, 2015, continues to cause distress to local residents and authorities even after assurance that the water is safe for activity. The spill released large amounts of heavy metals, including iron, into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River, posing a significant risk to the environment. Residents and authorities are worried about crops and tourist income in the area. One year after the spill, are the heavy metals and chemicals still present in a high enough concentration to be dangerous?

Using water samples collected along the Animas River, and monitoring their effect on samples of spirogyra algae helps to provide evidence of how the spill has affected the environment and how the river is recovering. Exposure of spirogyra to surface water from various points along the Animas River resulted in decay of all sample groups as well as a drop in each group's absorbance of red light at 662.5 nm. By the end of five weeks of exposure to Animas River water, Group D (Central Durango) showed the highest absorbance with an average of 0.2224 and Group F (Silverton, Colorado) was only slightly less with an average of 0.1722. All Animas River groups resulted in extensive decay, >93%. The mine spill, and the chemicals it released, continue to show significant deleterious effects on the health of spirogyra, indicating a significant environmental impact both near the spill, and that the impact appears to be extending downriver.