Ms. Michael’s STEM Fair Project

Ms. Michael’s STEM Fair Project

Elizabeth Robbins and Azriel Watson

Mrs. Michael, the 7th grade science teacher, recently got a scientific paper published in the marine journal! Flagstaff is so lucky to have such a great teacher!            

What’s the name of the paper?

Variation in the Endogenous Intact Waxes of Odontocetes: There’s More than One Way to Build an Acoustic Receiver

What’s the main idea?

Different species of diving whales have different kinds of fatty acids in their raw fats related to how deep they dive and what frequencies they use to communicate. 

What was it like working on this project for 7 years?

The lab work was stressful and that took the majority of 2 years. But most of the time has been spent trading it between reviewers. 

At the STEM Fair assembly how did it feel to hear everyone cheering for you? 

Emotionally overwhelming, I’ve never had 300 hundred people cheering for me. And it was cool to have everyone cheering. 

How did it feel to talk about your project in front of the middle school and be recognized? 

It was a nice parallel that the students were finishing their projects at the same time I was finishing mine. 

How did you balance working on the project, being a 7th grade science teacher, and having a life outside of school and your paper?

Very careful scheduling of my time and using a planner and a calendar to make sure that I was getting all of the things needed to be done on time. But a lot of the editing didn’t have to do with me. 

Living in Colorado and working on a project that has to do with the ocean, how does that work? 

The first two years I was living in North Carolina so it made sense to do it then, then the editing I could do from Colorado. 

Why did you choose this project? 

It was one of the many projects that my advisor was interested in and it was the one that most closely matches my interest in chemistry. 

Why do you love sea animals? 

I love sea animals because they are a fascinating link to our ancestors because they change very slowly. I find their adaptations to live under water interesting. 

How did you research whales?

The whale research was done using specimens donated by other research groups and mixed in by other whales that were stranded. I got to use my anatomy skills to prepare them for chemical analysis. 

Do you like anatomy?

During my masters program I was also teaching human anatomy to pre med students and that’s where my interest is. The mixture of teaching human anatomy and using whale anatomy for my research was great. 

We as in…? 

We would be me, my master’s advisor (Heather Koopman), Dr. Susan Budge who helped me develop chemistry methods to develop the data, Dr. Andrew Westgate who helped me write grants, Dr. Hillary Glandon who helped me with data analis. 

You have a seal stamp and a whale tattoo, do you like seals better than whales? 

No, I just thought the seal stamp was funny. And the whale, a short-finned pilot whale, is my favorite. I got it for myself when I finished my masters. Short-finned pilot whales have a white spot on their bellies, and when they come out of the water it looks like a heart. 

Link to the website where the paper is published:

The paper should be printed around January or February.