A SOUTHAMPTON teenager has been named 'Young Scientist of the Year' after painting nail polish on sea urchins.

A level pupil Charlotte Day, 18, bagged the accolade after inventing a ‘punk’ method of tagging sea creatures.

The St Anne’s school girl won the Gatwick Airport South East Young Scientist of the Year Award at the Big Bang Fair South East and will now go on to compete in the Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Competition next March.

Charlotte’s winning project compared the grazing rates of sea urchins, common periwinkles and topshells and their effect on the marine environment.

It was described by judges at the Big Bang Fair South East as “quite complex experimentation underpinned by sound academic research”, and “a project that has clear outcomes that have value and meaning”.

The teenager was working on a Nuffield research placement with Dr Gordon Watson at the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Portsmouth.

She said: “I had no idea what to expect on the placement.

“Dr Watson and I agreed that I would be able to carry out an experiment that would compare the grazing rates. I wasn’t highly thrilled with the animals that I was given to work with, as I was looking for something more ‘adventurous’ than sea snails – but that soon changed.

“Over the weeks, I cared for my animals and checked that they were all accounted for; the gastropods had a habit of wandering off. I did this by tagging each one with its own bee tag - a numbered and coloured small disk. This worked perfectly fine for the snails but not for the sea urchins.

“This presented itself as a problem that needed to be fixed in a way that would mean I knew which sea urchin was which and not harm the animal.

“I came up with a rather creative approach of using nail polish on their spines and it worked, as well as meaning I had a tank full of ‘punk rock’ looking sea urchins.”