Grace Hall is only a junior this year at Belfast Area High School, but she already has scholarship offers from five different colleges because of her project for the Maine State Science Fair, which was conducted virtually this year. The University of Maine offered the most, with a four-year scholarship that covers full tuition and admission to the honors college, she said.

Her science fair project involved zebra fish, which are useful for modeling human development and growth. She looked at the effect temperature has on their embryo development.

The biggest obstacle she had to overcome was when she could not harvest embryos from the zebra fish she purchased because they were not laying eggs, she said. Her science teacher, Elizabeth Mick, helped her get some embryos from UMaine.

Mick said Grace drove up to the college herself to get the fish and always met the teacher before and after school when she made plans to work on her project and make observations. She was impressed by Grace’s initiative. “You open that door and she’ll walk through it,” she said.

By the time Grace got the embryos she had only a few weeks to conduct her experiment, which left little room for mistakes. She incubated the embryos in water at temperatures of 22 degrees, 28.5 degrees, 32 degrees and 34 degrees Celsius.

“I carried my experiment out in a week,” she said. “I watched them over a five- to six-day period under the different temperatures and took pictures and observations.”

She found that growth was extremely compromised at 34 degrees Celsius. She thinks it shows that even small changes in temperature can affect fish populations, information that could be used to make predictions about the effects of climate change.

She admits that her project was small in comparison to others and did not yield as much data, and she did not place in any of the top slots in her category. But she thinks people were impressed by how she was able to overcome an obstacle to complete a research project during her school’s hybrid learning schedule and the fact that she used animals.

She did not expect to win any scholarships, but thought the interviews she signed up for during the science fair would be good practice, she said. Mick said the way Grace set herself worked well, and the way she took data and research, and analyzed and presented that research showed she has a lot of promise.

The project affirmed for Grace that she wants to study the sciences in college, she said. She enjoys researching topics, and then conducting experiments and labs. She is good at managing her time and refers to herself as" schedule-oriented."

Her parents noticed that Grace had a lot of curiosity and excitement about the world from the time she was a toddler, according to her mother, Charity Hall. They lovingly called her "Gracie Google" because she was always asking questions and googling answers to questions that stumped her parents or teachers.

Animals were always particularly interesting to Grace, her mother said in an email to The Republican Journal. She would check out library books at school often to read about them. Hall and her husband have encouraged their daughter to challenge herself. She is the type of person who is willing to chase what she wants, her mother said.

Grace manages a full schedule as an employee at Aubuchon Hardware, is a three-sport athlete and a club field hockey participant, all in addition to her academics. “She is a very well-rounded young lady that juggles a lot, but does it all well,” Hall said.

Grace is keeping her options open when it comes to where she will attend college. She knows that she wants to major in a science program and possibly pursue a career in medicine. And she is seriously considering UMaine as an option.