Margie Jones' science fair project may not be flashy, but it was more than enough to earn her a trip to state.
Jones' project, which studied insect diversity in streams on Rabbit Ears Pass, was among eight projects selected from a regional science fair competition in Grand Junction recently. Jones, 17, a senior at Hayden High School, will head to the state fair at Colorado State University this weekend.
Backed by a written explanation and 36 graphs comparing water test results, Jones' project represented solid scientific effort.
It just wasn't quite as pretty as it could have been, she said.
"I was really surprised," Jones said about going to state. "I felt like I could present it well, but the appearance wasn't up to par -- I'm not that crafty."
Jones' project is based on research she and other students conducted in biology and chemistry classes at Northwestern Community College.
The students' research focused on indicator species of insects, which hint at the health of a water system and surrounding environment.
"Aquatic insects are probably the smallest indicators that there is something wrong with our environment," Jones said.
The students took water samples from five streams on Rabbit Ears Pass: Two samples were from streams in areas where snowmobiles and/or cars are allowed and three were from streams in nonmotorized areas.
The streams in motorized areas had large numbers of dipterian insects or "true flies," which can survive in almost any type of environment -- not a good sign of good water quality, Jones said.
Although dipterian numbers were lower in nonmotorized areas, the overall diversity in all the steams was small, Jones said.
"I was expecting a lot more diversity," she said.
With more time, Jones said she would have like to consider soil erosion, water velocity and other factors that may affect aquatic insect populations.
The research process sparked an interest in the environment for Jones, who also gained insight into decisions regarding motorized and nonmotorized use on Rabbit Ears Pass.
"I think maybe those decisions are based on user preference," she said. "I think we should base that on how it's affecting the environment."
Hayden Middle School student and seventh-grader Caitlin Mahanna also will be competing at the state level with her project, "Engineering a Roller Coaster," a prototype of a futuristic roller coaster.