BRENTWOOD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Three Brentwood High School students have caught the eye of top scientists at Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory for their work on one shellfish’s potential to reduce nitrogen in Long Island’s waterways.

Funded by a county grant, students Lisbette Hernandez, Oindrila Maha and Shade Hightower found that mussels, a shellfish that lives in the local waterways, are actually helping marsh grass grow stronger and taller, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported.

“You might look, to the naked eye, you just see grasses,” Dr. Rebecca Grella, the Brentwood science teacher who oversaw project, said. “But when you look down deep, you see the mussels and grasses together.”

The mussels act as an anchor for the grass, which is then better able to absorb excess nitrogen in the water, Grella said. Overabundance of nitrogen in waterways is the primary cause of fish kills and toxic algae blooms, which are growing problems for Long Island’s waterways.

The students completed their study of marsh grasses at the nearby Connetquot River throughout the summer.

The students believe that their idea will not only reduce nitrogen, but will also help reduce storm surges because thicker sea grass can help slow the force of stormwaters.

The project, which the students playfully named “Mussel Power” received semifinalist status in the prestigious Siemens Science Competition, which honors innovative high school research projects in science, technology and math.

Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory have both expressed interest in studying the students’ data.

“Yeah, I’m surprised,” Hernandez said. “You would think that people wouldn’t listen to us teenagers.”

The students will also present their data to the Suffolk County Legislature in January.

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