STUDENTS plumbed the depths of the ocean to solve a chemistry conundrum at an annual challenge event.
Sunderland University held the Schools Analyst Competition for the 23rd time.
Scientists challenged the AS and A-level students to put their knowledge to good use, to try and find out the concentrations of species in water that may be causing coral to die.
Coral reefs are under stress due to threats such as rising sea levels and temperatures around the world.
Also, pH changes in ocean acidification have been linked to greenhouse gas emissions.
The students were given full access to laboratories and analytical equipment in the university’s £8.5million Science Complex to perform experiments.
The organiser of the event, university chemist Roger Reeve, said: “In an attempt to educate the public about these problems and protect endangered types of corals and associated fish species, Ocean World has established large coral ecosystem tanks at their aquaria to facilitate breeding programmes and research.
“However, some of the tanks are showing signs of coral distress. We wanted the teams to analyse the water from the affected tanks and try and deduce the root cause.”
This year’s regional heat winning team was First Lord Lawson of Beamish School, Birtley.
Park View Community School, Chester-le-Street, and St Leonard’s School, Durham, came joint second.
Other schools which took part included Sunderland College and St Anthony’s Girls’ School, Ashbrooke.
These schools will now go into the regional finals, where academics will decide which can progress to the national final, which will also take place in Sunderland.
Mr Reeve said: “We are always delighted to host this regional event, and in June we will be hosting the national finals of the Schools Analyst competition.
“We last held the finals in 1998, and we are the first university since records began to be asked to hold the competition twice.”