Student Researchers Shine

Student Researchers Shine
Harrison Fried, Kayla Walls take first place at Denman Undergraduate Research Forum
Harrison Fried
Harrison Fried tested how algal turbidity and sedimentary turbidity affect the swimming performance of minnows in Lake Erie. Photos by The Ohio State University.

The 24th annual Richard J. and Martha D. Denman Undergraduate Research Forum was held on Feb. 20, with 205 Ohio State students vying for top honors. The Denman Forum was limited to fourth-year students exclusively this year. 

Two undergraduate students from The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) won first place at the Denman, with their poster presentations in the categories of “Education Across the Human Life Span” and “Conservation and Development.”

Agriscience education major Kayla Walls of Mendon, Ohio, took top honors with her “Safety Education for Women in Agriculture”  presentation. Walls is a student in the CFAES Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership. Dee Jepsen, assistant professor of food, agricultural, and biological engineering, served as Wall’s mentor.

Harrison Fried, an environmental policy and decision making major in the CFAES School of Environment and Natural Resources, won first place with his research on “How Do Algal and Sedimentary Turbidity Affect the Swimming Performance of Emerald Shiner and Golden Shiner in Lake Erie?” Suzanne Gray, assistant professor of aquatic physiological ecology, served as his mentor. Ohio State highlighted Fried’s winning research in the story below.

By The Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry

Fried and other researchers at Stone Lab fish for emerald shiner and golden shiner minnows, which larger fish eat to survive.

A Cleaner Lake Erie

Growing up in Cleveland, Fried loved to care for his aquariums, maintaining a healthy world for his fish. It’s a hobby that blossomed into a larger passion: to preserve the environment we all live in.

“I was always interested in creating a thriving mini-ecosystem in my home,” said Fried, who also has a minor in environmental science and will graduate in August. “When I realized it was something I could actually do research on and use it for a career path, I was very excited, and that’s why I've chosen to pursue the path I have.

At the Denman Forum, Fried presented research he hopes can encourage improvements to the Lake Erie ecosystem.

Fried, who earned a Research Experience for Undergraduates scholarship, studied how pollution in the form of algal turbidity and sedimentary turbidity in Lake Erie affect the swimming performance of two minnows: the emerald shiner and the golden shiner.

“If you can imagine swimming in pea soup, incredibly cloudy and thick, that’s essentially what fish are experiencing in Lake Erie,” Fried said.

The polluted particles cause abrasion and clogging in the gills of these fish, making it harder for them to take in oxygen and swim. If these fish—which are essential to the Lake Erie ecosystem—can’t swim, they can’t survive.

Fried spent last summer at Stone Laboratory, Ohio State’s island campus on Lake Erie. “Stone Laboratory is a special place. It’s the most transformational experience any aquatic science student can have. You’re in the middle of one of the most human-impacted lakes.”

“Stone Laboratory is a special place. It’s the most transformational experience any aquatic science student can have. You’re in the middle of one of the most human-impacted lakes.”Harrison Fried

For his research, Fried tested the physiology of the emerald shiner and the golden shiner through swimming tests. He’d place a fish in a clear tube and have it swim against current, then increase the current until the fish was exhausted. The experiments simulated swimming in algal and sedimentary turbidity. While golden shiners did not seem affected, emerald shiners showed a decreased ability to swim.

“I’m hoping this can serve as evidence of the effects of humans on fish,” said Fried, who was recently accepted into Ohio State’s graduate program to study environmental social sciences. “Hopefully it can promote positive agricultural practices that will improve the condition of Lake Erie.

It’s a project that fits perfectly with Fried’s vision to use scientific research for environmental improvements through the law. Because he plans to pursue a law degree or a doctorate in environmental policy, Fried sees opportunities at Ohio State such as the Autumn Undergraduate Research Festival, where he presented in November, and the Denman as a chance to polish communication skills while bringing light to an issue he is passionate about.

“As scientists, we need to more effectively communicate our research in order to improve policy and public knowledge on the issues that face us today,” Fried said.

Harrison Fried conducted much of his Denman Forum research project through opportunities at Ohio State's Stone Lab on Lake Erie.