Year 10 Charlotte’s 200-page academic paper considers why many hundreds of whales appear to have their navigational senses scrambled and become stranded on beaches many miles away from home – much like the 60ft fin whale which recently washed up on Cornish shores.
Charlotte’s research supports the hypothesis of a brand new study, published in the journal Current Biology by Duke graduate student Jesse Granger, which has found that the animals are four times more likely to strand themselves during solar storms.
The academic paper has even earned the 15-year-old the Silver CREST award for scientific rigour.
The CREST assessors praised Charlotte for the “remarkable the way in which [she] mobilised to obtain sources” and that “the detail in and clarity of what [she] wanted to achieve was impressive”. All in all, they said that the “project was a delight to review”.
She conducted her research as part of the THS after-school astronomy club. Her teachers Brian Sheen, the Director of the Roseland Observatory, and professional astronomer Carolyn Kennett offered support throughout the process.
Charlotte said “I’ve never done anything like this before so it was a bit of a learning curve. The difficulty in finding relevant data and constantly revising the paper was pretty tough going but it was definitely worth it. The lack of available data means that my findings are currently inconclusive so I’m really excited to investigate further.”
Having received the praise of the CREST assessors for her scientific rigour, Charlotte hopes to publish her paper in an academic journal. She is already beginning preliminary research for her next project, the CREST gold award.