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Sewickley Academy freshman making difference through love of science

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
Sewickley Academy incoming freshman Chelsea Carver, 14, of Pine stands for a photo inside one of the school's newly renovated science rooms on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. Carver was involved in a research project about invasive worms in North Park over the summer. She is a new student at the academy this year.

While most teens her age spent the summer relaxing, Chelsea Carver was conducting scientific research at a local park.

Carver, 14, of Pine worked alongside Interpretive Naturalist Meg Scanlon at the North Park Latodami Nature Center, researching an invasive worm species believed to have been imported into the country from Asia through bait and bait boxes.

“At first, I was a little skeptical (of the project), but then I looked into it and it's actually very interesting,” the incoming Sewickley Academy freshman said.

“Most people think worms are very useful in agriculture, but actually they aren't as wonderful as people think they are. In the forest, they actually eat the nutrients in the soil.”

Digging at various areas in the park turned up several species of worms. Carver said they found an abundance of night crawlers by the lake, jumping worms near the composting site and other types of worms in the forest.

She said there are about 17 species of worms locally and around 5,000 worldwide.

Carver's research inspired her to create signs directing those using the park for fishing to properly dispose of their unused bait. The metal signs have been approved by the county and will be placed near fishing areas.

“I made this sign because I wanted to make an impact somehow,” Carver said.

“The community isn't aware of this issue in North Park, so I thought that since fishing is a big usage of worms that I could make signs that said don't dump your bait in the water or on the ground.” Instead, bait should be put in the trash, she said.

The signs feature a QR code which, when scanned with a smartphone, will send visitors to a website with information about the invasive earthworms.

“We're hoping through public education … maybe we can prevent the spread of it,” Scanlon said.

Last year, Carver and Scanlon created habitats for the locally endangered Eastern box turtle and studied ways to aid in their survival.

“It is wonderful working with Chelsea. She has such an eye for detail,” Scanlon said. “She's very driven, very energetic.”

Aside from projects at North Park, Carver has spent most of her summer and winter breaks since third grade taking on science-related projects and research, attending classes and participating in competitions.

This year, she won three Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair awards for her research on the effect of cracks in foundations or walls on radon levels in Allegheny County homes.

She won the 2013 Young Naturalist Award from the American Museum of Natural History for her study of the effectiveness of deer repellants.

Carver said she transferred to Sewickley Academy this year because of the private school's reputation for excellence in academics, especially in the sciences.

Ron Kinser, senior school biology teacher, said Carver will be an asset to the science department.

“So far in my experience I have not seen such dedication,” he said, adding Carver “has very specific scientific goals and is willing to do whatever it takes to meet those goals” and has support from her mother, Elaine.

Kinser said Carver's start at the academy coincides with the opening of the newly renovated Oliver building, which houses science labs and classrooms.

“She wants to do what we want to accomplish with the new space. In that way it is a perfect alignment,” he said.

Kristina Serafini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1405 or

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