Jun 19, 2019

WEF Announces 2019 U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize Winner

Sonja Michaluk researched DNA barcoding to measure waterways health

Sonja Michaluk researched DNA barcoding to measure waterways health

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) announced Sonja Michaluk as the winner of the 2019 U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP).

Michaluk is a student at Hopewell Valley Central High School in Pennington, N.J. In her project, Michaluk researched the use of DNA barcoding to measure the health of waterways with larval Chironomidae. For winning the prize, Michaluk received $10,000 and an all-expenses paid trip to Stockholm to represent the U.S. at the competition in August.

Michaluk’s winning project was titled, "A Novel Method of Monitoring the Health of our Global Fresh Water Supply using DNA Barcoding of Chironomidae (Diptera).”

The project detailed how 66% of the U.S. population will experience water scarcity within a decade. According to WEF, “current surface water monitoring methods rely on expensive and technically challenging manual identification of biological samples.”

Michaluk said that results accurately and precisely measure waterway health data, adding value for monitoring scarce water resources. The judges were impressed by the quality of her research.

“Beyond the very impressive research Sonja performed in her study of Chironomidae DNA barcoding to determine water quality health,” the judges commented. “She also applied her knowledge to a local non-profit water institute to improve her own community watershed.“

Students from states across the U.S. and Puerto Rico competed in the national finals at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, June 13 to 16. According to WEF, the prize goal is to increase students’ interest in water issues, research, and careers, and also raise awareness about global water challenges. The competition looks for projects focused on improving water quality, water resource management, water protection for drinking water, and wastewater treatment.

The runners-up were Noel Lange of Alabama and Ankush Dhawan of Indiana, both of whom received $1,000. Haley Jostes of Minnesota received the Bjorn von Euler Innovation in Water Scholarship Award from Xylem Inc., and Mehaa Amirthalingam of Texas received the James L. Condon Recognition for Environmental Stewardship.