Student Eyes Future In Ornithology

Photo/Northport-East Northport School District Maxwell DeBrino is pictured at SUNY Buffalo during the New York State Science Congress competition.

Photo/Northport-East Northport School District
Maxwell DeBrino is pictured at SUNY Buffalo during the New York State Science Congress competition.

By Janee Law
jlaw@longislandergroup.com

Thirteen-year-old Maxwell DeBrino has had a passion for studying birds ever since he was young and first discovered his fascination with owls and penguins.

“I would be able to see the owls in my backyard and I would hear them calling,” DeBrino, of East Northport, said. “I would also do research on penguins and visit them in aquariums. I was very interested in them.”

DeBrino, a recent East Northport Middle School grad, said he and his family went on a trip to Boulders Beach in South Africa last summer, when he came face-to-face with African penguins.

His fascination with birds eventually turned into a science experiment, one that he’s recently shared at several prestigious events and earn accolades for.

After winning first place in the junior division of the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair in April for his project, “Feeding Frenzy: The Effect of Position, Shape and Ultraviolet Color on the Feeding Behavior of Backyard Birds,” DeBrino has been invited to submit his project for consideration in the annual Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars), a prestigious STEM competition for middle schoolers.

In addition, he competed in the Long Island Science Congress competition, where his project earned him high honors and second place in the biology category. On June 3, DeBrino received honorable mention at the New York State Science Congress competition.

As for the Broadcom MASTERS competition, he’ll find out in September if he’s again been chosen as a semifinalist.

DeBrino’s project focuses on the impact of color, shape and position on a bird feeder in relation to the feeding behavior of birds commonly found in the Northeast.

From August 2016-October 2016, he conducted research on 13 different species, such as house finch, American goldfinch, black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse and blue jay.

The purpose of the project is to expand on his research from last year, which earned him a national semifinalist designation and placed him among the top 10 percent of sixth, seventh and eighth graders from across the country invited to participate.

“I would like to become a semifinalist as I did last year and I’m hoping that I can become a finalist. That would be a real honor for me,” DeBrino said.

DeBrino’s sister, Isabella, was also selected as a national semifinalist last year for her project on paper composition.

This fall, DeBrino will enter Northport High School as a freshman. He’s excited to choose more electives that will help him work towards his future goal of becoming an ornithologist. He also wants to join the Science Olympiads and Symphony Orchestra, having played the cello since fourth grade.

When he’s not studying birds or playing the cello, DeBrino spends his time outside skateboarding and teaching other kids to skateboard at Veterans Park in East Northport.