Okinawa Shogaku High School to Compete in Stockholm Junior Water Prize
Okinawa Students Representing Japan at Prestigious International Science Competition Visited OIST
On July 26, 2023, the high school team “BiO2” from Okinawa Shogaku High School in Naha City, Okinawa, winner of the 2023 Japan Stockholm Junior Water Prize, visited the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology. OIST President and CEO Karin Markides and others met with the BiO2 team and offered congratulations and encouragement.
The Stockholm Water Prize is a prestigious international science contest, often referred to as the "Nobel Prize of the Water World.” The Japan Stockholm Junior Water Prize is the domestic qualifier for nomination to the junior version of the Stockholm Water Prize. The winning team is awarded the opportunity to participate in the international competition held in Sweden in August.
This year's chosen team to represent Japan in the contest consists of four members: Rino Ganeko, Taichi Akamine, Fu Sadoyama, and Yukiha Shinjo. All four are third-year students at Okinawa Shogaku High School. Their project, which focused on the water quality improvement function of the Mehirugi (Kandelia obovata) trees, which make up the mangrove forests in the Lake Man wetlands near their school, received high evaluations.
The team focused on the ecology of the Mehirugi expanding its habitat, including in the environment around Lake Man, where water quality deterioration was progressing due to heavy metal ions flowing from domestic wastewater. They hypothesized that Mehirugi might be improving water quality by absorbing metal pollutants in the water and releasing them through its fallen leaves. The students attempted to verify their hypothesis by examining the metal ions contained in the fallen leaves and planned to conduct analyses using equipment available at their high school, but they couldn't obtain accurate results as they had hoped. "So, we asked OIST for help, and they allowed us to use their mass spectrometer, which can analyze trace amounts of metals," said team member, Rino Ganeko.
Upon receiving the initial contact from BiO2, OIST decided to support this project, driven by their desire to assist the passionate high school students in Okinawa. Dr. Kazuo Yamauchi, the research support leader of the OIST Instrumental Analysis Section, and Dr. Yoshiteru Iinuma, a research support specialist, communicated with the students and provided advice and guidance on sample processing methods and analytical techniques tailored to their research objectives. Dr. Iinuma supported the challenging sample preparation, mass spectrometer measurements, and data interpretation. As a result, it was found that the concentration of metal ions in fallen leaves was higher compared to young leaves, suggesting the possibility that Mehirugi removes harmful substances by absorbing metal ions and releasing them through its fallen leaves.
OIST President and CEO Karin Markides encouraged the high school students, saying, "Continuing to have curiosity, no matter how old you get, will bring many unexpected surprises in life. The world needs thinking that is not bound by conventional concepts. I believe there will be plenty of opportunities to showcase your curiosity and creativity in the future. Keep challenging yourselves! And while enjoying my home country, Sweden, I hope you achieve great results in the competition."
At the meeting, rehearsals of the high school students' English presentations in preparation for the upcoming international conference, which is just one month away, were also conducted. Dr. Iinuma and Dr. Yamauchi, who supported the research, along with Dr. Mizuki Shimanuki, the senior manager of the Research Resources Section, provided specific advice on the research content, giving them a boost for the international conference. Additionally, Justin Charles Foster Sutherland, the English instructor at the Language Education Section, and Kaori Serakaki from Media Relations Section, also offered guidance on presentation techniques and encouragement for the event.
Speaking about her enthusiasm for the future, Yukiha Shinjo said, "As we all move on to our respective careers, my hope is that this research will be carried forward by younger students. Since I have a strong interest in science, I would love to stay engaged in similar research projects. And who knows, perhaps one day I might have the opportunity to come to OIST as a student or researcher."
The Stockholm Junior Water Prize will be held in Sweden starting August 20. OIST and Okinawa are rooting for their success!