Student Feature Fridays

Eamonn Powers

IMG_0799This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Eamonn Powers. Eamonn used his love of fishing to develop a Vortex River Aerator to help oxygenate streams in order to allow fish, specifically trout and salmon, to survive when water temperatures rise and oxygen levels decrease. He created a system of pipes that would allow water to spin (think of a controlled underwater tornado) as it ran through them, generating higher levels of oxygen and using only the power of the water current to bring oxygen rich water downstream. Through his work with Mr. Marsh and his senior project, he has developed several prototypes and has now partnered with a scientist in Woods Hole to eventually bring his prototype to production. His ultimate goal is to have his device made of good quality, Eco-friendly materials and placed into streams all over the world. For more information on his project check out his Google Slide Presentation or his Senior Project Reflection Essay.

When asked how he developed a passion for this work, Eamonn spoke about the support from his parents and many fishing trips with his dad. He recalled an experience he had when he was 10 years old fishing off a pier in the ocean. He explained that he caught a fish with such strength that it snapped his line in 30 seconds. From that moment on he was hooked  (pun intended). As he became more involved in fishing he began to learn that populations of fish were in danger and he felt compelled to protect the fish populations that are so vital to the environment. Eamonn is well on his way to making a significant contribution to the world and plans to study Fisheries Biology in college with the hope of working with the U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Department. He also plans to continue his research at a college or university where he would like to be a professor.

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Q: What have some of the obstacles been in working on this project and how have you overcome them?

A: The main obstacle that I consistently faced was creating a device that not only created a substantial amount of dissolved oxygen, but was also realistic to place in a stream. Often times a prototype would work extremely efficiently yet it just wouldn’t work well placed in an actual river. Other times I would create a prototype that would fit very well in a stream or river but it realistically would not create a significant enough amount of dissolved oxygen. I overcame these obstacles by creating many prototypes and testing new prototypes practically every day for a number of weeks. Eventually I was able to create a device that would work well in a stream and created a significant amount of dissolved oxygen.

Q: A few times during our conversation you spoke about research. Why are you interested in pursuing research at a college or university as part of your career and why do you feel it is so important?

A: I am interested in pursuing research at a university and in my career for a number of reasons. I personally find studying trout and salmon to be fascinating. They are both amazing families of fish with different species around the world. They are beautiful fish with an amazing story, history, and life cycle. These fish are not only beautiful, and amazing, they are also crucial members of global ecosystems. Take an Alaskan sockeye salmon for example, these fish are born in streams, rivers, and lakes across western Alaska. After spending a few years growing in freshwater they migrate out to the sea as a salmon “smolt.” Once in saltwater sockeye salmon migrate hundreds of miles into the middle of the northern Pacific ocean, feeding on shrimp, plankton, and other small fish. After living in the ocean for a number of years they migrate back to the same water body where they were born. After reproducing in these waters they die, depositing nutrients into the stream, river, or lake, and surrounding land. This one species of fish travels through lakes, streams, rivers, coastal ecosystems and ocean ecosystems. Throughout their lives they feed on aquatic insects, eels, shrimp, plankton, other smaller fish, and many more different types of food. Throughout their lives they serve as a food source for bears, humans, birds, seals, freshwater fish, and sharks. This one species of fish is so incredibly important and research is so incredibly important to protecting it. Research gives an insight into their behaviors, their threats, and means of restoration and conservation.

Q: Can you explain the impact that AP Environmental had on your interest in working with this project.

A: My AP Environmental science class had a big impact on my interest on working with this project. It got me thinking about the science behind fisheries and the threats to cold water fisheries and the environment in general. It helped to inspire me to want to find a solution to a common problem, hot and low water in streams and rivers in the summer.

Q: This project has taken a tremendous amount of time, energy, learning and perseverance on your part. What have you learned through the process that has been the most meaningful?

A: I have learned that if you put in the time, effort, and research, a dream or idea can become reality. In junior year I had an idea of a device I wanted to create. I did not know how I was going to do it or what the device was but I knew what I wanted it to accomplish, an increase in dissolved oxygen levels in streams and river using only water current as a source of energy. I knew a device like this could be extremely helpful in helping coldwater fish populations so I decided to pursue it by signing up for a senior project. After weeks of research, talking with fisheries professionals, and talking with teachers, I was able to turn an idea into a concrete, functioning device. It’s an amazing feeling.