Hopewell Valley junior Sonja Michaluk took the top prize at the Mercer Science and Engineering Fair.

With spring rains and flowers starting to bloom in the Northeast, it can be easy to forget that less than one percent of the world’s water is accessible as a public water resource, and approximately 40 percent of of the world population experiences water scarcity.

Sonja Michaluk, an 11th grade student at Hopewell Valley Central High School, has been focused on these concerns for the last 10 years. Last month, Michaluk took the top prize at the Mercer Science and Engineering Fair held at Rider University.

Michaluk received top awards and recognition for her research entitled “A Novel Method of Monitoring the Health of our Global Fresh Water Supply using DNA Barcoding of Chironomidae (Diptera),” which explored DNA Barcoding as a method for measuring the health of drinking water sources.

She will soon travel to Phoenix to present her research at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with students from over 75 countries. She has also been invited to share her work at the New Jersey Water Environment Association Conference in Atlantic City.

At the fair, Michaluk received the Rider University Award for Most Superior Senior Project; the Office of Naval Research Naval Science Award; the Stockholm Junior Water Prize Regional Award; and a New Jersey Water Environment Association (one of five people statewide who will be recognized at the annual conference in Atlantic City).

She also received the first place award from the Theobald Smith Society, a branch of the American Society for Microbiology; the Mercer Science and Engineering Fair First Place Award for Environmental Science and Engineering; the Association for Women Geoscientists Student Award for Geoscience Excellence; and the Friends of the Abbott Marshlands Outstanding Wetlands Project Award.