George Kopf V

Princeton High School ’23

Princeton University ’27

About Me:

Hey! I’m George and I’m a third year research student at Princeton High School. I focus on Ecology, Bioengineering, Molecular Biology, and Behavioral Evolution.

My interests include biology, trading card games, reading, drinking obsessive amounts of tea, slowly collecting an army of tiny potted plants from Home Depot by the windowsill, and spending far too much time curled up in a corner listening to music. 

Reach me at 609-608-2119 or georgekopf5@gmail.com!

Projects:

Observing the Capabilities of Pufferfish to Exhibit Visual Social Learning

Pufferfish are generally known for their curious and explorative nature. This experiment will be a dual test studying the abilities of pufferfish to learn from their environments and to learn from each other (environmental and social learning), as there is a continuing struggle to understand the full extent of intelligence and learning in animals. By physically separating individuals with a pane of glass, all communication is limited to purely visual stimuli. The subjects will be forced to rely on their natural interest and ability to comprehend learned information through the observation of another individual of their species.

An “explorer” pufferfish is taught a specific hiding place that is safe from a fake predator (a simple dowel used to intimidate the puffers without actually touching or harming them) while an “observer” pufferfish watches through a dividing pane of glass. When the explorer has demonstrated significant learning, the observer is then switched into the experimental side of the tank and allowed to repeat the exact same process. In doing this, the two pufferfish can be compared in terms of speed of observational learning in both the Green Spotted Pufferfish, Tetraodon nigroviridis, and the Dwarf Pufferfish, Carinotetraodon travancoricus.

Tackling Food Waste Through the Use of the Bug-A-Low Black Soldier Fly Bioreactor

Our solution to reduce our environmental impact has provided opportunities for all students to get involved by building on nature’s perfect recycler–the black soldier fly, an organism renowned for consuming nearly anything organic..  

Black soldier fly larvae will eagerly digest all foods in any state of decomposition. They then crawl out from their nutrient-rich excrement to be gathered as high-quality feed for domestic animals or to be processed into foods and cosmetics. We’ve developed the Bug-A-Low bioreactor: the infrastructure to take advantage of these bugs’ flexible diets in a clean and scalable way.  

Simply pop off the cap and deposit your food; the interior has been pre-seeded with larvae. Light and distance sensors connect wirelessly to our app, which will notify users when the cap is missing or when the container is full and needs replacing. Excess odor and moisture are absorbed with activated charcoal filters and matting made from recycled paper. When the larvae are ready to self-sort, they climb the internal ramp and tumble into the collection chamber. From there, we have found a variety of uses for these miracle bugs, including cold pressing them as a replacement for palm oil.

The use of black soldier fly oil can help reduce the high environmental impact of palm oil. 23% of the land cleared in Indonesia and Malaysia from 2001 to 2016 was solely to develop palm oil plantations; this includes hundred-million-year old rainforests that provided shelter for tigers, elephants, and orangutans. These ancient landscapes can recover, but only if we can reduce our dependence on palm oil. Black Soldier Fly Oil is an eco-friendly substitute with its high lauric acid content and antimicrobial properties. Through increased use of sustainable insect oils for high-quality products such as hazelnut spread, hand cream, and soap, our Bug-A-Low bioreactor prevents the horrors of deforestation with its fast yields and small carbon footprint.

Sources:

Heyes, C. 2012. What’s social about social learning? Journal of Comparative Psychology, 126(2), 193–202. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025180

Plezier, Wilson, Shultz, Cooke, 2015. Puffed and bothered: Personality, performance, and the effects of stress on checkered pufferfish, Physiology & Behavior Volume 142, pg. 68-78, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938415301086

Herzog, Peter. 2022. Green Spotted Puffer Care: Aquarium Setup & Feeding Guide. Fishtankadvisor. https://fishtankadvisor.com/green-spotted-puffer/

Reyes, Díaz, Re-Araujo, Pérez, 2011. Behavioral thermoregulation, temperature tolerance and oxygen consumption in the Mexican bullseye puffer fish, Sphoeroides annulatus Jenyns (1842), acclimated to different temperatures. Journal of Thermal Biology Volume 36, Issue 3, pg. 200-205. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306456511000258

Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2021) – “Forests and Deforestation”. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: ‘https://ourworldindata.org/forests-and-deforestation’ https://ourworldindata.org/palm-oil

Banks IJ, Gibson WT, Cameron MM. Growth rates of black soldier fly larvae fed on fresh human faeces and their implication for improving sanitation. Trop Med Int Health. 2014 Jan;19(1):14-22. doi: 10.1111/tmi.12228. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24261901/

“He traded sand for skins, skins for gold, gold for life. In the end, he traded life for sand.”

Afari, Tales