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Jake Sussman: Teenage Rain Forest Researcher

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Jake Sussman is a very interesting young man.

The teenager spent years building a killer model train layout in the basement of his Westport home.

He runs triathlons, and — as captain of the Forman School cross country team — heads to San Antonio this weekend, for the Junior Olympic Nationals.

But this post is about his work as a rain forest researcher.

Jacob Sussman

Jake Sussman

He’s one of 12 students selected for Forman’s Rainforest Project. It’s a year-long, college-level class in tropical ecology. Every year since 1992, they’ve done field work in Costa Rica to gather data and test hypotheses on the impact of global warming on the rainforest, and identify opportunities for local farmers to have sustainable incomes that do not damage the forest.

The biggest finding is how to extract spider silk — the strongest natural fiber in the world. It’s well suited for many uses: medical sutures and gloves, bulletproof vests, that sort of thing. The school has been granted 2 patents already.

Forman students  have found a way to collect golden orb weaver spider silk at a fraction of the previous cost.

“We extract 150 feet of silk per minute!” Jake says. “We know how to make these farms sustainable. We know where to build the facilities.”

They Forman group has also discovered over 70 new species of moths, and identified 3 endangered amphibians not thought to be indigenous to the Costa Rican rainforest.

It’s amazing what our kids do when no one is looking.

 

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