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Blades Of Grass

Siemens Science Semifinalist

Suburbanites love their lush green lawns. Whether to pass the football over, run through in bare feet, or simply laid as a welcoming carpet before colorful flower beds ringing home and property, lawn grass is king in the ‘burbs.

Problem is, the use of fertilizers that feed those verdant lawns adds pollutants to the environment. To address the problem, one high school research student imagined a more natural way to dress a property using native grasses that perform double-duty as filters for fertilizer and road salt residues.

Garden City High School senior Michael Cassano began his work with grasses native to his own Long Island backyard, seeking to define a solution to the chemical imbalances wrought by hundreds of well-intended homeowners and road crews. In 2010, Cassano joined the Friends of Hempstead Plains (www.friendsofhp.org), an organization formed in 2001 “dedicated to the perpetual preservation, restoration and management of the site through scientific research and education.” The Friends acquired a two-acre parcel of preserved land that is a tiny remnant of a once vast inland prairie called the Hempstead Plains. It contains native plants, small mammals, birds, and insects, and served as the center of the nascent environmentalist’s field work.

The young naturalist developed a research project with Dr. Steven Gordon, the high school’s science research teacher, based on his quest to seek an alternative to lawn grasses. Ultimately, these findings led him to be selected as a finalist in the 2012 Museum of Natural History Young Naturalist Awards. “Winning an award based on work done in my high school lab was very rewarding, but I wanted to go to the next level and do research in a professional lab.”

He subsequently took that next step by studying a flowering plant: Agalinis acuta, the only federally-endangered plant species in New York. He set out to learn everything he could about the endangered plant, right down to its DNA sequencing. The Garden City resident took a plant genomics course offered at Cold Spring Harbor DNA Learning Center, where he collaborated with plant geneticist Dr. Bruce Nash who supervised his use of lab equipment to further his research. To unravel the mystery of what the host plant species was, he took samples to Cold Spring Harbor Lab and, by isolating the plants’ DNA, identified the endangered plant as Sorghustrum nutans (Indian Grass).For his efforts and discovery, Michael Cassano was named a 2013 Siemens Competition in Math Science and Technology National Semifinalist. “A record number of submissions were entered this year, 1,973 projects, comprising 2,440 of the top students in the United States,” commented Dr. Gordon. “Of this pool, only 238 projects, 12 percent were chosen as National Semifinalists. Michael’s project involved years of fieldwork with the Friends of the Hempstead Plains. It’s nice to see all of his hard work paying off!”

Moving forward, the tiny remnant of the Hempstead Plains will not only be the New York State nursery for Agalinis and its Indian Grass host, but will also include a new Education and Research Center, which, thanks to Cassano, will sport a “green roof” of grasses the young researcher grew for his Eagle Scout project.

- Submitted by Garden City Public Schools

News

Budget adjustments, staff reductions recommended

The Garden City Board of Education will prepare to adopt next year’s school budget in a couple of weeks. Before they do, they’ll have to go over a few changes.

At the board’s public work session held at the high school on Wednesday, April 9, school superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen recommended a few adjustments, part of the annual balancing act that is the school budget.

The Garden City Board of Trustees approved a $55,791,023 operating budget at its April 7 meeting by a 7-0 vote (Trustee Theresa Trouvé was absent).

The spending plan requires a tax rate increase of 3.73 percent or an increase in tax of $224 to the average assessed single family home.


Sports

Commitment at Kellenberg

Garden City residents continue to excel while participating in the athletic program over at Uniondale’s Kellenberg Memorial High School.

Each season, coaches of Kellenberg sports pick one player from their squad who has demonstrated remarkable commitment to the team through their hard work at practice and in competition.

The Village of Garden City has a long history of residents who've excelled both on the academic and athletic side of the ledger at Kellenberg. This time around, seniors Kelly O’Donnell (varsity cheerleading), Stacy Madelmayer (varsity girls basketball) and Bryan Salecker (swimming and diving team) have all been awarded the Commitment Award for their outstanding efforts, devotion, hard work and commitment to their respective teams.

Lady Panthers

start season 7-0

The number two ranked Adelphi Panthers Women’s Lacrosse team has gotten off to a fast start to their 2014 season and show no signs of slowing down. Head Coach Rob Grella, entering his third season at the helm, has led his team to an impressive 7-0 record to kick off their campaign. Six of the Panther’s first seven games have been won in commanding fashion in which they have outscored the opposition by a staggering margin of 122-14.

Last season, the Panthers continued their tradition of playing hard and fighting off tough challenges. They would finish the 2013 season with an impressive 11-1 record within the Northeast Ten Conference and overall at 18-3, making it to their fourth consecutive trip to the NE-10 Conference Championship where they eventually lost to Le Moyne.

Calendar

Dinner & A Movie: In Transition 2.0

Thursday, April 17

School Budget Meeting

Wednesday, April 23

Judi Mark One-woman Show At Library

Thursday, April 24



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com