Cathy Ellsworth was a 6th grader from La Madera Elementary School in the 2015-16 school year and won an honorable mention in the category Environmental Science/Environmental Engineering. Her project, “Copper Uptake in Moss,” examined how moss absorbed copper in aqueous solutions with different concentrations of copper.  


Cathy’s fascination with moss began when she was five and was shown a patch of moss by her grandmother in her front yard. She started science fair in second grade, and each year since then, her project has involved the moss from the patch her grandmother had showed her. Her passion for studying moss continues unabated, and she plans to continue investigating the questions that cropped up from her past moss studies for future projects.


In her project, Cathy used common materials to conduct her research. To measure copper concentration, she used an aquarium test kit that included a color comparison card. The moss came from her garden, and commercially available polyethylene served as her control.  Cathy had minor trouble with her project when her samples fell over and lost some water, but she simply said, “When I ran into problems, I just shrugged and continued, because there are always problems.” After 20 days of allowing the moss to soak in copper solutions of various concentration, Cathy found that her hypothesis was correct, and that the moss absorbed copper fastest in the most concentrated solution.



Cathy found OCSEF to be a highly rewarding experience. For those who also want to do a science fair project, Cathy’s advice is to “start early”, but above all “relax and have fun.” For Cathy, “science fairs are some of [her] favorite times of the year.” Her personal role model is the famous primatologist Jane Goodall because of her passion for nature, and she encourages students to find both a role model and parental support for their endeavours. As for her own project, Cathy hopes to expand on the concept of mosses’ absorption of various substances, especially in relation to how they could potentially absorb pollutants and thus act as pollution samplers.