Virginia high school student to represent U.S. in international Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition

Thomas Jefferson High School student Brenda Goguen of Alexandria, Va., will represent the U.S. as a finalist in the Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP), the world's most prestigious water science prize for youth.

Alexandria, Va., June 18, 2001 — The Water Environment Federation (WEF) and ITT Industries have nominated Brenda Goguen, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., as the 2001 United States finalist for the international Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP), the world's most prestigious water science prize for youth.

Goguen will represent the U.S. as she competes with finalists from 23 countries for the Prize (including $5,000) awarded by HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden during World Water Week, August 12-16, 2001 in Stockholm, Sweden.

On June 8, a panel of WEF member-judges selected Goguen's project, "Molecular Characterization of Potential Fish Pathogens in Waters Where Reported Pfiesteria piscicida Outbreaks Have Occurred" from an exceptional pool of 35 State SJWP winners. Goguen was originally chosen by the Virginia Water Environment Association to be the State winner from Virginia. (For details on the competition format in the United States, visit www.wef.org/PublicInfo/Stockholm/index.jhtml)

Using sound scientific method and an elaborate testing protocol, Goguen's paper challenges the conventional wisdom that fish kills occurring in the Chesapeake Bay region are attributable to Pfiesteria piscicida. Goguen studied DNA in soil sediments taken from five rivers that empty into the Chesapeake Bay, from an experimental fish tank at the Center for Marine Biotechnology (COMB) in Baltimore, Md., and from samples purported to be pure amoeboid Pfiesteria cultures (tester samples). Her results found that Pfiesteria piscicida was present in small amounts only in three of the five rivers; that the COMB samples showed no direct correlation between the organism and the fish kills; and that many of the Tester samples were not pure because other organisms were present in them.

Taken together, the results of Goguen's studies cast doubt on the validity of the prevailing hypothesis that Pfiesteria piscicida preys upon fish. Her research points out that there may be other organisms causing the fish kills, and invites broader thinking and further study.

"While the judges were impressed with the level of sophistication shown in all of the students' projects, Brenda showed courage in questioning a prevailing viewpoint," said WEF Past President Charles Sorber, who led the judging panel. "Her methodology was sound and disciplined, and she took on an area that is so contemporary, she did not have the aid of a large body of existing research."

Established in 1993 to engage and support the interest of young people in water environment issues at the regional, national, and international levels, the SJWP is awarded annually to high school students who have contributed to water conservation and improvement through outstanding research. WEF and ITT Industries co-sponsor the Prize in the United States; ITT is the international sponsor. Projects are judged on five different criteria: relevance, creative ability, scientific procedure, subject knowledge, and presentation.

WEF and ITT Industries will award Goguen and an accompanying adult an all expense-paid trip to Stockholm for the international SJWP competition, a plaque, and a one-year complimentary membership to WEF, a global technical, scientific, and educational society of water quality professionals.

Founded in 1928, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization with members from varied disciplines who work toward the WEF vision of preservation and enhancement of the global water environment. The WEF network includes more than 100,000 water quality professionals from 77 Member Associations in 31 countries.

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