FHHS Students Promote Tardigrade

Posted February 10, 2020 at 5:49 am by

Friday Harbor High Students Promote the Tardigrade as Washington’s Official Micro-Animal in Olympia - Contributed photo

Do you know what a tardi­grade is? If not, it’s time to find out! It could soon become Wash­ing­ton State’s offi­cial micro-ani­mal thanks to a part­ner­ship between stu­dents at Fri­day Har­bor High School, River­day School in Spokane, Jef­fer­son Mid­dle School in Olympia, along with Lynn Bahrych from the San Juan Islands Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict, and Katie Flem­ing from Friends of the San Juans.

The tardi­grade, also known as the water bear or moss piglet, is a micro­scop­ic ani­mal that lives in vir­tu­al­ly every habi­tat on Earth and can be found in every coun­ty in Wash­ing­ton. Tardi­grades live in lichens and moss, as well as in marine and fresh­wa­ter sed­i­ments, soil, sea water, fresh water, glac­i­ers, hot springs, deserts, and rain forests. Tardi­grades typ­i­cal­ly range in length from 0.3 to 0.5 mil­lime­ters, though some species may exceed one mil­lime­ter. They are a key com­po­nent of healthy soil.

Many species of tardi­grades have been iden­ti­fied in fos­sil records dat­ing back 530 mil­lion years, and have sur­vived the past five mass extinc­tions on Earth. Tardi­grades have been stud­ied for meth­ods to adapt to cli­mate change and with­stand radi­a­tion dam­age from can­cer treat­ment due to their abil­i­ty to sur­vive in extreme conditions.

The Fri­day Har­bor High School Eco Club learned about tardi­grades in their AP Envi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence class, and were so fas­ci­nat­ed that they took their inter­est to Olympia to help give these tiny, but impor­tant, crea­tures more expo­sure. They sup­port­ed Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Alex Ramel, the 40th district’s new­ly appoint­ed state rep­re­sen­ta­tive and the bill’s lead spon­sor, and tes­ti­fied in front of the House Com­mit­tee on State Gov­ern­ment and Trib­al Rela­tions to make the tardi­grade the Wash­ing­ton State micro-ani­mal. The bill, HB 2747, has now passed out of the Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee and is on its way to the house floor for a vote before going to the senate.

“One of the coolest things about this job is when young peo­ple come to the cap­i­tal to talk with us, their excite­ment and enthu­si­asm is con­ta­gious,” said Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Alex Ramel from Wash­ing­ton’s 40th district.

“My favorite parts of the trip were being able to wit­ness the demo­c­ra­t­ic process in action and meet­ing with our rep­re­sen­ta­tives,” said Ayla Rid­wan, a junior at Fri­day Har­bor High.

In addi­tion to tes­ti­fy­ing for the tardi­grade, the stu­dents met with Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Debra Lekanoff to dis­cuss waste reduc­tion, marine plas­tics, and cli­mate change. They also spent time in Sen­a­tor Liz Lovelett’s office talk­ing about the low car­bon fuel stan­dards leg­is­la­tion, which is a pri­or­i­ty cli­mate action bill.

“It was inspir­ing to see the stu­dents grow dur­ing the time we spent in Olympia. We’re so for­tu­nate to have these young lead­ers out there tak­ing action every day to pro­tect our envi­ron­ment and bring aware­ness to impor­tant issues,” said Katie Flem­ing, Com­mu­ni­ty Engage­ment Direc­tor at Friends of the San Juans.

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