When you hear the term ‘scientist’ or the writer of a ‘research paper’, your mind immediately brings up the figure of a 30-something nerdy person who has lived with books all the time or a 60-year-old scientist with scraggly hair. However, we might not remember that it’s not the 30-year-olds and above that are the real inquisitive souls. The real curiosity lies within the minds of kids who are exploring the world around them all the time. They might even have the mind of a scientist.
Well, a kid might be setting a record by publishing a research paper at just 6 years of age. Her name: Grace Fulton. She will be co-authoring with her father, but that does not mean her name is being put up for the show.
Graham Fulton, an ornithologist from the University of Queensland has explored the world of birds for a long time. He has seen how owls are able to adapt to the new urban-based environments. Grace, his daughter, loves owls as well. When she was 4, she spent time with her dad in the middle of the night, searching for owls in the rainforest. She can even mimic their sounds now.
For the latest research paper that Graham is working on, he draws a comparison between the Brisbane park owls with the owls of Mount Glorious rainforest nearby. His daughter was there with him during his fieldwork, and even after a toilsome night, attended school the next morning. She was in Prep. Grace was able to go through the data, analyze parts of it, and also figure out which owl was common, as per the records of the fieldwork and the excel sheet. She could even assist her dad when he forgot something.
By asking different questions, Grace inspired the research to grow. She even corrected Graham in several cases. Now that the research paper is out in Pacific Conservation Biology, she has a name too.
The duo had discovered a near-absence of owls in certain suburbs except for the boobook in the south outside his study area. In the rainforest, about five owl species show the health of any forest.
Graham is of the opinion that city parks should be connected to large forests so owls can fly into the parks to find food if necessary.
There may not be any documented Guinness World Record for a younger scientists with a published research paper. The title was held by Sophia Spencer who co-authored a paper on social media and was considered the youngest. Grace seems to have earned the new ‘Youngest’ title by over a year.
Grace will become the lead author of another paper, which is going through review. In this paper, she has recorded a kind of bird nesting in an environment where it was not recorded before.
Grace wants to be a butterfly researcher. However, his dad had mentioned that butterflies are bird food in a funny way.
The Fultons want to expand into another territory and study the aggression shown in honeyeaters. So, they are crowdfunding so that they can go to North Queensland and conduct this research.
Image credit: Graham Fulton