PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A four-episode podcast tells the story of the scientific discovery of Lake Ballard in the Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve in Portsmouth. For nearly two decades, the lake was believed to be brackish water – a mix of salt and fresh water – that was until four high school students came poking around.

“Probably after the fourth or fifth try, I was just like, this is just fresh water!” said Joshua Dungan, alongside Nakayia Hudson, two of the high school students part of a STEM internship with ODU’s Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC).

Joshua (homeschooled) and Nakayia (senior at Manor High School in Portsmouth) were able to get onto the lake and sample the water over the course of a few weeks. Using Niskin bottles at various depths, they were able to determine that the once brackish waters are now totally fresh.

The freshwater discovery goes beyond the experiment. Their internship partners with Hampton Roads Workforce Council, connecting them to numerous career professionals throughout the several-week program.

“That’s the highest impact work,” said Patrick Ball, the Senior Project Scientist with VMASC. “Working with young people and bringing about a passion or interest so they can go off and make a real difference.”

Whether interested in STEM or not, there’s no doubt that it’s based on something real – a subject matter than can excite and inspire the minds of our youth.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m the biggest with school, I don’t really like school,” added Hudson. “So, for me to take something that I actually learned in school and actually use it in the real world was like, really cool.”

And with every discovery and answer, comes more questions. The students are already brainstorming how the lake became freshwater.