BROOKSVILLE - About 115 middle, private and high school students participated in this year's Hernando County District Science Fair.
The fair was held at the Hernando County Fairgrounds on Wednesday morning. Students' projects were judged and remained on display throughout the afternoon.
Longtime county Science Fair Director Colleen Doulk, who is also a sixth-grade science teacher at Challenger K-8, said all five county high schools participated.
Doulk also said two private schools - Hernando Christian Academy and Methodist School Center - participated in the fair, as did all but three county middle schools.
Among the competitors was Central High School senior Addison Hilyard, who has studied horse parasites for four years.
What Hilyard found and presented at this year's fair, he said, is a fungus called "duggingtonia flagrans" that eats harmful horse parasites and their larvae.
The fungus has been shown to survive passage through the gastro-intestinal tract of livestock, then germinate and spread on freshly deposited dung, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Thus, the fungus has the potential to break the life cycle of parasites by capturing infective larval stages before they migrate from dung to pasture, where they otherwise might be acquired by grazing animals, according to the NIH.
Hilyard was able to demonstrate a similar application among horses, he said.
"It's proven effective," said Hilyard.
This year marks Hilyard's seventh and last district science fair, he said.
"If I go on, it will be my sixth time at the state science fair," said Hilyard, adding that he hopes to progress from the state to the international science fair, which he has done twice previously.
Nature Coast High School sophomore Taylor Rejsek has been studying ocean acidification for two years, she said, and she presented her findings on a green algae called "chaetomorpha" at the fair.
"The higher pHs (acidification) killed off the algae," she said. "This is man-made. All the gas that comes out of cars in the ocean, it kills the algae. It's kind of like global warming, just in the ocean."
Rejsek said she has been to the district science fair four times, the state science fair three times, and she hopes to advance to the international fair this year.
Judging for this year's District History Fair takes place beginning at 8 a.m. Feb. 22, at Explorer K-8. Judging ends at 2 p.m. and an awards ceremony will be held at 4 p.m., according to the district.