GU student's science project takes flight

<I>The Eagle/Angel Carpenter</I><BR>After earning Best of Fair at the Portland Community College regional science fair, Kieron Callahan (above) advances to higher-level competitions. The Grant Union High School junior will participate in the Northwest Science Expo in April and Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May. His interest in wildlife biology influenced his choice to research goshawk nesting sites.

JOHN DAY - A Grant Union High School junior's study of goshawk nesting will compete for honors at state and international science competitions this spring.

Kieron Callahan's project earned Best of Fair at the March 7 Portland Community College regional science fair, and automatic advancement to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Reno in May.

Callahan also will participate in the Northwest Science Expo, a state-level competition this Friday, April 3, in Portland.

Two other Grant Union students also participated in the regional fair. Breanna Wilson, who studied the effects of Vitamins C and E on white blood cell counts, received an honorable mention in Medicine and Health; and Lincoln Mosier investigated the effects of elevated carbon dioxide levels on plant growth.

Callahan's project, an investigation in goshawk nest site selection, was listed in the Environmental Management category and took first place out of 70 other student research projects, primarily from the Portland area.

Grant Union is the only school east of the Cascades to compete at the regional fair, which is one of seven in the Northwest Science Expo system. Callahan is only the third student in Grant Union history to earn a prestigious spot at the Intel International competition. The others were Vernita Ediger and Jennifer Holliday.

Callahan said he enjoys wildlife biology and finds birds of prey especially interesting; this led him to choose his study of goshawks.

"I was interested in what influenced them to choose to nest where they did," he said. He added that he also wanted to choose a serious science project.

Goshawks are the largest member of the three North American accipters, a group of raptors. They are found throughout the world, though they are sparsely populated. They are a species of concern on the Malheur National Forest, and have been identified as threatened in various parts of their range.

Callahan compared tree and stand characteristics at goshawk sites to random sites in the Strawberry Mountains. He measured characteristics such as tree diameter, age, height, basal area, canopy cover and species composition.

He determined that goshawks are influenced mostly by stand characteristics in selecting nest sites, rather than the individual tree used for nesting. They preferred nesting in ponderosa pine stands consisting primarily of large (17 inches), old (146 years) trees, with an intermediate density. To ensure continued nesting, Callahan recommends protecting entire stands where goshawks are known to be nesting, not just the nest tree.

Callahan is a science club member and a student in Randy Hennen's Biology II/III class.

In addition to Hennen's guidance, Callahan also had help from the late Ken Schuetz of the Forest Service, who assisted in identifying goshawk nesting sites and provided equipment to measure tree characteristics.

Kieron's father, Rick, and Sina Ross also helped collect data while braving deep snow. His mother J.J. Collier, an art teacher at Grant Union helped prepare his display board.

Hennen commented, "It is pure pleasure to work with students like Kieron who take such an active interest in their research, and are willing to put in the time and effort to produce a quality product. One of the keys to having a good project is having a good question, and Kieron's investigation deals with a real world concern that has real world implications."

Callahan says he looks forward to the science fair in Reno.

"I'm interested," he said. "It ought to be really fun and cool experience."

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