For his award-winning project, Track investigated the impact of ocean acidification on sea urchin fertilization and development.
“The purpose of this research is to evaluate how the ocean’s increasing acidic levels will affect marine organisms’ ability to reproduce,” Track said. “Sea urchins have significant roles as a model organism, ecologically and in the lab.They are very sensitive to changes in water chemistry such as pH.”
To conduct the study, Track collected 80 sea urchins from Sarasota Bay. Some of the urchins were put into water with a higher than normal pH to simulate ocean acidification. Results showed urchins exposed to more acidic water had high rates of polyspermy, which describes an egg that has been fertilized by more than one sperm and is therefore not viable.
“This illustrates that these organisms’ ability to reproduce is greatly inhibited, confirming negative impacts of future ocean acidification,” Track said.
This fall, Track will be attending the University of Florida majoring in either zoology or biology. His career goal is to one day be a reconstructive plastic surgeon and help people repair their appearance after a major accident or surgery.
Track said students who wish to apply for the scholarship next year should consider reaching out to a local university to gain access to a lab. He conducted his experiments at the New College of Florida.
“This will give you all the tools you need to conduct top-notch research,” he said. “Be passionate about the topic and make sure it interests you, otherwise you won’t be driven to commit the time necessary.”
Funding for the scholarship is provided by the Skoch family of Boynton Beach, in memory of Charles “Chuck” Skoch, an avid fisherman, boat captain and Florida resident who prematurely died in an automobile accident at age 51.