13-Year-Old Sixth-Grader Accused of Stealing Lionfish Research

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By Smitha Nambiar | July 25, 2014 2:45 PM EST

A 13-year-old sixth-grade student, Lauren Arrington, who rose to fame with her science fair project about the invasive potential of lion fish, has been accused of stealing the Lionfish Research by former ecology grad student Zack Jud.

A marine biologist named Zack Jud, who earned his PhD in biology from Florida International University, claims that the science fair project submitted by Lauren Arrington in 2013 (she was in sixth-grade at the time) , for which she received international recognition, was based on the published work he did way back in the year 2011. He also said that the girl's father, Dr. Albrey Arrington, executive director of the Loxahatchee River District, was a co-author of that paper. Jud said he was hurt since "years of groundbreaking work on estuarine lion fish are being completely and intentionally ignored."

Lauren Arrington, who began her science fair project in the year 2012, studied the behaviour of Lionfish in Florida to evaluate if the saltwater fish could survive in freshwater as well. She then came up with this amazing finding that the lionfish are capable of living and surviving in freshwater. Her work received great accolades from scientists across the globe, including North Carolina State University ecologist, Craig Layman. He published the findings regarding the lionfish in the journal 'Environmental Biology of Fishes', and complimented the "sixth-grader for coming up with this idea,"

Zack Jud, however, wasn't ready to accept this and posted his feelings on his Facebook page. He wrote, "At this stage in my career, this type of national exposure would be invaluable. I feel like my hands are tied. Anything I say will come off as an attempt to steal a little girl's thunder, but it's unethical for her and her father to continue to claim the discovery of lionfish in estuaries as her own."

In response to Zack Juds' accusations, Dr Albrey Arrington said that the paper that he co-authored with Jud said that the lionfish were found in the Loxahatchee River. However, it did not experimentally define the lowest salinity lionfish can live in. "Lauren got her idea to experimentally test just how far up the river lionfish could live (i.e., what is the lowest salinity lionfish can tolerate) after reading the 2011 paper and hearing the public presentations by Dr Jud and Dr Layman. Lauren cited the 2011 Jud et al. paper in her Science Fair report and display, and so she adequately provided credit to the authors of the 2011 paper," said Dr. Albrey Arrington.

Check out the full post that Zack Jud posted on his Facebook page last week....

My lionfish research is going viral...but my name has been intentionally left out of the stories, replaced by the name of the 12-year-old daughter of my former supervisor's best friend. The little girl did a science fair project based on my PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED DISCOVERY of lionfish living in low-salinity estuarine habitats. Her story has been picked up nationally by CBS, NPR, and CORAL magazine, and has received almost 90,000 likes on Facebook, yet my years of groundbreaking work on estuarine lionfish are being completely and intentionally ignored. At this stage in my career, this type of national exposure would be invaluable...if only my name was included in the stories. I feel like my hands are tied. Anything I say will come off as an attempt to steal a little girl's thunder, but it's unethical for her and her father to continue to claim the discovery of lionfish in estuaries as her own.

I'm looking towards you - my valued friends and colleagues - for suggestions on how I might be able to remedy this intentional misrepresentation without doing anything to disparage the little girl. Most of you are aware of the massive amount of time I put into exposing kids to science, and I obviously don't want to do anything to diminish this young lady's curiosity or enthusiasm. I'm thrilled that she chose to look at lionfish for her science fair project, but encouraging an outright lie is poor parenting and a horrible way to introduce a youngster to a career in the sciences. This picture was taken in 2010, when I first discovered lionfish occupying estuarine habitats - 3 years before the little girl's "discovery".

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