GET WET! & OAPB Work to Help St. Lucie River

Oxbridge Academy senior Robbie Linck, of Palm Beach, interns at BioTools and helps unlock mystery to cause of toxic algae bloom in St. Lucie Estuary. 
Oxbridge Academy senior Robbie Linck, of Palm Beach, interns at BioTools and helps unlock mystery to cause of toxic algae bloom in St. Lucie Estuary.


Oxbridge student helps unlock mystery of toxic algae bloom

When people ask Robbie Linck, a senior at Oxbridge Academy, how he spent his summer vacation, they won’t get the usual answer of a family trip or a part-time job. The aspiring young scientist spent his summer as a research intern at BioTools, a Jupiter firm, conducting scientific research to help unlock the mystery to the cause of the recent toxic algae bloom in the St. Lucie River and estuary. He will present a paper on his finding in October at the American Water Resources Association’s annual Water Resources Conference in Portland, Ore.

Mr. Linck is one of four Oxbridge Academy students who interned at the biotech firm. The others are senior Gabrielle Gray-Case, junior Sarah Garelick and sophomore Alexa Perry.

“My internship functions as a way of assisting my research into the St. Lucie River Watershed,” said Mr. Linck, 17, who lives in Palm Beach. “The data I extract through the water evaluation I’m doing at BioTools will be used as part of my presentation at the annual Water Resources Conference in October as well as for the paper I’ll be publishing this winter.” Mr. Linck uses BioTools’ “Bio-Raman” microscope to determine the presence or absence of sugars within water samples collected from the St. Lucie watershed.

Mr. Linck’s research involves analyzing water samples taken from the watershed contributing flows into the St. Lucie estuary to determine the presence of sucralose, an indicator compound for the presence of human feces. His findings could help determine if improperly functioning septic systems are a major contributing factor to the algae growth in the area waterways.

He’s “an amazing student,” says Oxbridge science teacher Teresa Thornton. “Working with the Get Wet Organization, Robbie and other Oxbridge students assisted middle school students with collecting water samples in a number of private wells around the St. Lucie Estuary. His research involves analysis of those water samples and then analyzing the results and modeling the watershed dynamics to determine potential impacts. It’s the beginning of long-term research,” she said. “Once we have more samples, it could assist the government in decision-making regarding practices that have an impact on the water quality in that area.”

In addition to the practical applications of his research to add to the body of knowledge being used to pinpoint the source of algae growth in the St. Lucie River, Mr. Linck is developing proficiency within a professional bio lab. “I’m gaining valuable experience using specific instruments in my research, the likes of which can almost exclusively be found within pharmaceutical companies and collegiate laboratories,” he said.

BioTool research scientist Juanita Sanchez is supervising the aspiring scientist’s work. “I like the way that Robbie approaches the issue,” she said. “He has so many questions about our methods and techniques. He has done a lot of independent research himself and that takes him to another level. He’s one of the students I will always remember.” ¦





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