Science fair is something that has changed my life. If you had told the 14-year-old me I would be working with researchers and agronomists, and experimenting on soil, she would’ve told you that’s a joke. Well, it isn’t. I have learned so much, met amazing people, and experienced more than I ever thought I would in my life.

4-H has a lasting and generational impact on many people, including myself. I have been in 4-H for 11 years and it runs three generations deep in my family. This organization has given me many opportunities, including the science fair.

4-H has been able to provide me with an opportunity that has taken me across Canada. I was lucky enough to be a delegate in Round 2 of the 2023 4-H Canada Science Fair, which took me to Olds, AB. Then in May 2023, I got to represent 4-H Canada at the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CSWF) in Edmonton, AB. This is where I got to meet my mentor in-person. I also got to meet a student of his, who is also a past 4-H Canada Science Fair winner and CWSF winner.

Getting ready for Round 2 of the 4-H Canada Science Fair. Photo Credit: Alexandra O’Connor

I have also met people who have provided me with great information and pointed me in the right direction. It’s incredible to look at how the science fair has given me opportunities to shift my life.

Have I mentioned about the doors it opens for you? 4-H gives members many opportunities - from conferences to leadership events - to help a member move through the world and grow. But the science fair is one that gives members a chance to get scholarships to universities and colleges, meet new people outside of 4-H, and get the idea of how a student lives away from home. That was one I really took away, as I don’t travel often. The connections I have made (my mentor is a university professor and researcher who has allowed me to access research and materials I need), also gave me the chance to tour my future university, which I got a scholarship for.

My area of study examines the carbon storage and sequestration in grassland soils. I have taken part in both the 4-H Canada Science Fair and the CWSF twice, representing the ag industry. My project has become more and more important for many cattle and crop producers in the last decade. As the value of carbon goes up, producers are wanting to get paid for the carbon they are storing in the soil.

Me and my project board at the CWSF. Photo Credit: © 4-H Canada

My 2023 project examined the difference in carbon and nitrogen in the soils of native grasslands and croplands. What I found is that native grasslands store 2.3 times more carbon because they have not been cultivated; where croplands are cultivated once or twice a year. So, in essence my project was to help the government understand how to equally pay these farmers for the carbon they are storing. For example, cropland does not hold the same amount of carbon as grasslands, meaning that they won’t get paid the same amount as cattle producers who preserve grasslands.


Conducting my experiment. Photo Credit: Alexandra O’Connor

Many people ask me why I like coming back. Well, that’s simple, my involvement in the agriculture industry and my will to learn more. I have been involved with the ag industry since the point of my existence. I grew up on a cattle ranch, and it goes back four generations in my family. Many people in my family have represented the ag industry in the past. Now, it’s my turn to do that. This summer, I had the chance to meet the Senate of Canada, because of the science fair. I was able to share my experiences with them and tell them what I learned. Every year, I build upon my project so I can learn more. I want to bring fresh and new research to the table. I can’t say what my project will be this year, but coming back for my last year will be memorable.

My best advice for someone thinking about taking part in the science fair is, go for it! I have had so much fun, met a lot of new people, and got things out of it I will cherish for the rest of my life. The other thing is memories. A good friend of mine graduated and moved away this year, meaning she won’t take part this year. But the flip side is I have the memories we made together. Everything that I have experienced thus far has helped to prepare me for the future. To quote Winnie-the-Pooh, “We didn’t know we were creating memories, we were just having fun”.