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Marine Sponge Research at HIMB Launches High Schooler to International Competition 

Kian Sanchez placed third in 2024 Hawai'i State Science Fair

SOEST News, first published April 30, 2024

University Laboratory School junior Kian Sanchez conducted award-winning research on marine sponges at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) that is taking him to two high caliber competitions on the mainland in the coming weeks. 

Mentored by Jan Vicente, coral reef biodiversity researcher at HIMB in the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, Sanchez assessed the importance of marine sponges in the reef ecosystem. Specifically, he was interested in how sponges, which are filter-feeders and critical to the nutrient cycling on a coral reef, may be impacted by pollution and climate change.  

Placing third in the Hawai‘i State Science and Engineering Fair and third at the Pacific Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, Sanchez qualified to compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest pre-college STEM competition, in California and the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in New Mexico.

“Since the first day I met Kian, I was inspired to teach him what I know about marine sponges because his curiosity and relentless motivation to do science at such a young age was absolutely stunning and foreign to me,” said Vicente. “His perseverance when conducting experiments, even when they failed, allowed him to ask the right questions for improving experimental design. He has now completed two projects on topics that are breaking new ground in the field deep sea biology and nutrient dynamics on coral reef ecosystems which have awarded him with a scholarship and a trip to national and international science competitions.”

See the full story on SOEST News!