WHEN Isabella Aitkenhead saw her friends posting on Facebook they'd been accepted into the elite science program she had applied for, she thought she'd missed out.

She was devastated to think she hadn't been accepted and spent the next hour at work feeling disappointed.

But then an email appeared in her inbox confirming she was one of six Australian students selected to attend the prestigious Canadian Youth Wide Science Fair in May.

Now the 16-year-old Chanel College student needs help to get there and is appealing to community organisations and rotary clubs for their support.

"I didn't think I would get in because they had made it seem like it was really hard, and not to be disappointed if we weren't successful," Isabella said.

"I was so excited. I called mum straight away."

As a child, science always appealed to Isabella, but it was the environmental controversy surrounding the Gladstone Harbour dredging to make way for the Curtis Island LNG plants that piqued her interest.

Isabella Aitkenhead is one of six students selected to attend the Canadian Youth Wide Science Fair.
Isabella Aitkenhead is one of six students selected to attend the Canadian Youth Wide Science Fair. MIKE RICHARDS

It wasn't long before, then 12-year-old Isabella, began asking questions about efforts to protect native wildlife and ecosystem.

It's that insight she will be sharing with her Canadian counterparts during the trip, particularly the scientific work being done to preserve and monitor the harbour's health.

"I like learning about the environment and how we as people impact it, how we need to conserve it," Isabella said.

Isabella wants to be an environmental scientist when she grows up, although she's willing to let her future be shaped by the areas that capture her attention while studying a Bachelor of Advanced Science at university.

According to Isabella she and her friends are an example of the changing attitude surrounding gender preferences for the sciences where women are considered less likely to choose a career in science.

That's a problem Isabella says is quickly becoming a 'non-issue'.

"In high school nobody sees it because it's not evident," she said.

"There is no clear divide between girls and boys studying science.

"If a girl wants to do chemistry, physics, or study to be an engineer it's not a big deal, the same way it doesn't matter if a guy doesn't want to.

"I think it could still work against women once we finish studying and go into the workplace, but at school it's really not an issue anymore."

The Canadian Youth Science Fair is the grand final of a national competition which brings together thousands of Canadian high school students who will compete for more than $1 million in prizes.

The trip will cost $11,000 and Isabella --- who has already enjoyed the support of two Gladstone rotary clubs and her teachers, is hoping more organisations and businesses will offer to help.

Follow this reporter on Twitter @helenspelitis



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