HARRISVILLE — After watching fruit flies milling around an exposed banana, two Harrisville students came up with an idea for a science experiment which will now be conducted on the International Space Station.

According to the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, 2,261 proposals were submitted from student teams across the 37 communities participating in Mission 17 to the space station. Through several rounds of judging, that number was whittled down to 39 flight experiments.

Since Drosophila melanogaster — the common fruit fly — is one of the most commonly used animals in genetic research, Nadia D. Atkinson and Maia E. Bernhard wanted to see if microgravity would affect the insect’s reproduction cycle.

Their experiment, “The Effects of Microgravity on the Reproduction Cycle of Drosophila melanogaster,” was chosen as an experiment to be conducted through the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program Mission 17 to the space station.

The tiny insects are often used in genetic research since they have only a two-week life cycle and females lay hundreds of eggs. The experiment will involve sending male and female fruit fly specimens into space to measure how the life cycle is affected and the mortality rates of pupae and adults. Upon return to Earth, the amount of larvae, pupae and adults will be counted and compared to the experiment in the Harrisville lab. The budding scientists hypothesize that fruit flies will breed slightly less, and mortality will be higher than in the control experiment conducted on Earth.

“It’s a solid experiment,” Nadia said. “It could tell a lot about the fruit fly’s life expectancy.”

Learning more about the fruit fly’s life expectancy in space could lead to conclusions about how microgravity affects the life cycle of animals with similar DNA, according to the experiment’s proposal summary.

The Harrisville duo was confident that their experiment would be chosen for the trip to space and are excited about the opportunity.

“We are very thankful for this program, the IMPETUS program and Ms. Taylor,” said Nadia on behalf of the team. “They have always been there. It’s a good program. We would recommend it to anyone.”

Their teacher, Nicole L. Taylor, was not surprised either.

“They were so dedicated,” she said. “They wanted to get it done and get it done right. They are very competitive.”

The students along with their teacher will be invited to the launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida, set for June.

As Nadia put it, this was “not our first rodeo.”

They had an experiment in the running last year concerning erosion of copper, which received an honorable mention. They also presented an experiment on how a person’s sense of smell affects academics during a STEM conference in Albany.

While presenting their fruit fly experiment to fellow students, Nadia and Maia sprayed peppermint essential oil around the room for one group and did not for another, then quizzed the two groups on what they learned from the presentation.

“We wanted to see if scents can be used as study aids,” Nadia said.

“The peppermint essential oil proved to be distracting,” Maia said.

Nadia, the child of Adam D. Atkinson and Laura L. Tebo, both of Harrisville, is a senior. After graduation, she plans to attend SUNY Potsdam to major in history and minor in museum studies, hoping to one day work for a large museum as either a researcher or curator. She is also involved in the Harrisville Central School musicals, art programs and in IMPETUS — Integrated Math and Physics for Entry to Undergraduate STEM — through Clarkson University.

Maia, the child of Rob Bernhard III and Heather Bernhard of Harrisville, is a sophomore. She is involved at school on the yearbook staff, FFA and environmental studies. Following in the footsteps of other family members in the veterinarian field, she plans to pursue a career as a large animal veterinarian for a zoo.

Last year, an experiment by Harrisville students Elaine L. LaVancha, Hailey M. Meagher and Ethan L. LaVancha concerning the growth of algae, was launched into space.

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