Josie Baudendistel is working with Dr. Eric Benbow, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Dayton. She has been an author on three conference presentations in association with Dr. Benbow and is now crowdfunding further research on how opossums see in the dark. Oh, yeah… she is in 8th grade.
During a preliminary literary review, I found two papers revealing that the North American Opossum has both long and short wavelength sensitive light receptors in their eyes (1&2). This brought to my attention the question of whether or not the Opossum uses ultraviolet or infrared light wavelengths as scavenging signals. For this year’s science fair project, my hypothesis is that there may be both UV and IR light wavelengths signals to the opossums signaling when to scavenge. My proposed process for this project is to set three pig carcasses along the edge of a field where previous activity has been observed. Each carcass will have a tripod with a webcam placed over it that will send images to a website. Each carcass will also have a trail camera placed near it to capture scavenging activity. In addition, I will also go to each carcass site and take pictures through a filter that senses UV light as well as IR light to observe any visual changes in the carcass twice a day during the research period. I will then compare the observed visual signals with opossum scavenging activities. If visual signals can be identified, there is a possibility they can be used during forensic investigations.
On the long list of things I wasn’t doing in 8th grade, being any part of important scientific research ranks right near the top. We wish Josie the best of luck and hope this inspires others to use the power of the crowd to further their STEM-related goals no matter what the age.
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