Way to Go: Gabrielle Ward, Mineola
A Mineola High School senior might have discovered a new species of spider while doing science research.
Gabrielle Ward made the discovery this winter as she classified spiders living inside a gall made by wasps in the Long Island Central Pine Barrens.
The effort is part of research she is conducting under the mentorship of Rich Wilkens, a biology professor at Dowling College in Oakdale. Wilkens confirmed that the spider did not fit species specifications in its genus, a biological classification of organisms.
"It's very rewarding to see something new and to know that you were the first person to ever see it," said Ward, noting the spider is smaller than a dime and is part of the jumping spider family called Salticidae.
In order for the species to be accepted as "new," Ward and Wilkens must publish a paper reviewed by a group of peers in the field. The process could take up to a year to complete.
Ward intends to name the species "Jackper," in honor of a boy she used to baby-sit who died of cancer three years ago.
"It shows not only her scientific abilities, but also that she is a remarkable person by naming the species after someone other than herself," said Ellen McGlade-McCulloh, a Mineola High science research teacher.