Madison Siders, 15, of Winchester just completed her fourth consecutive trip to the Ohio State Science Fair and with her “Studies of birds, the sky is the limit.”
Siders has competed in 18 science fairs since she was in fifth grade and is saving every dollar of her winnings toward her college education.
“I’m paying for college myself and I need to pay for as much as I can,” Siders said. “I don’t want to make my parents pay. I can begin looking at scholarships soon but for right now every time I get money I just save it.”
Those plans for the moment are to go to Ohio State to study zoology where the goal is to get into both large and small veterinary science, and with all the studying she’s doing of birds over the past few years, she’s well on her way.
Siders has been studying which types of birds mainly depend of a bird feeder as their food source in winter for the past three years, each year trying to find different variables and other twists for her study.
What Siders has discovered is that black oil sunflower seeds are the best type of feed to provide birds. Siders has noticed 27 different species of birds eating black oil seeds.
“It’s a really good food source in the winter,” Siders said. “It’s easily consumable for many different types of birds. Birds can be picky eaters and wild bird seed you can buy in a store is often mixed seed. Birds will pick through certain seeds and often waste many of what you buy.”
The study consumes her Christmas break where she goes next door to her grandparents’ house, takes a seat on the couch and observes for nine hours a day, this year for six days.
“Studies of birds are so much observation,” Siders said. “I stay on my grandma’s couch looking out of the window. She loves it because she’ll bring me food and sit with me while I take notes.”
Those notes are thorough to say the least as Siders will nearly fill up an entire notebook each year filled with observations ranging from which birds she sees, if the food is wasted, temperature and weather effects, what time the birds feed and other variables.
That diligent note taking and eye for detail is what Siders believes keeps her earning a spot in state-level science fairs year after year.
“I’ve got three journals with tons of data from the past three years,” Siders said. “I try to keep all of my data so I know exactly what I’ve done.”
Despite now being a veteran of the state science fair, Siders still describes the event as something you can’t really predict.
“It’s really overwhelming at first,” Siders said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
Siders scored a perfect score this year in the district science fair which qualified her for the state competition where she scored a 35 out of 40.
“The older you are the harder you get graded,” Siders said. “They’re looking for about a 38 out of 40 before giving consideration for the national competition.”
But according to a professor who spoke to Siders at this year’s Buckeye Science Fair, a separate competition from the state science fair, Siders could be packing her bags for a national competition in the near future.
“I had a professor come speak to me after the competition and told me he liked the way I wrote my report and he told me if I do well enough I could be going to Phoenix, Ariz., next year for the national competition.”
Siders does all of this while maintaining her feeder calves for the Future Farmers of America and her breeding rabbits she will showcase at this year’s Adams County Fair.
“Even during my observation in the winter I still have to do all of my chores in the morning and at night with my calves,” Siders said. “I have to clean the stalls, get hay for them, unfreeze their water, feed them, bathe them and make sure they have fans on them.”
With three years of high school left to complete, Siders plans to continue adding more variables to her project. Those variables this year may include doing her observation at a different time of the year.
“Next year I think I want to try it during the summer or the fall,” Siders said. “Maybe do that for two to three seasons and see how that varies. I already know there will be different birds in the fall due to migration.”