This past weekend marked the culmination of regional science bowl competitions across country. The 1st place teams from 23 regional competitions met in Ocean Springs, Mississippi for the 18th National Ocean Sciences Bowl Finals. For the second year in a row, Idaho’s Boise High School team took 1st place and considering this is only the second year they have ever competed, it’s pretty amazing. The 2nd place team was Dexter High School from Dexter, Michigan and the 3rd place team was Marshfield High School from Marshfield, Wisconsin. Notice anything? The top three finishing schools are all inland schools with no direct access to an ocean – pretty impressive.
Our very own regional winner – Mount Sinai High School – were strong contenders in the competition and came in a very respectable 5th Place. The members of The Bay Scallop Bowl team are Alec Donowitz, Nicholas Eberhard, Devon Gaynes, Alexander Mule and Daniel O’Mara. The team was coached by Gina Sing and David Chase and was the 9th year that Mount Sinai has represented New York in the finals. Yeah Mighty Mustangs !!
The 4-day event was held in Ocean Springs, Mississippi from April 23rd – 26th. Students and coaches were guests at Gulfport Research Laboratory and in addition to taking part in the competition, they also participated in exciting and educational field trips. The trips ranged from a tour of the Point Sur research vessel, a visit to Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Stennis Space Center & Infinity Science Center, a Pascagoula River tour, and trips to West Ship Island and Horn Island with transportation being provided by sailing schooners. The students were also treated to a career mentoring event with leaders in the science field. The theme for this year’s competition was Science of Oil in the Ocean which was apropos because it was the 5-year anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion which many believe to be the worst environmental disaster in US history. In keeping with the theme, the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony held at the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum was Vernon Asper, a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, who spoke about his scientific research and personal findings while working in the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Prizes awarded for the competition included an all-expense paid trip to Juneau and Sitka, Alaska and Corpus Christi and Port Aransas, Texas where students will be able to work with local field experts and conduct scientific experiments, GoPro video cameras, marine science textbooks, Amazon gift cards as well as beautiful artwork to hang in their schools. In total for the 2015 regional/final competitions, there were 1,800 high school students and 1,200 volunteers involved. Many of the students go on to pursue careers in ocean science, making the regional competitions as well as the finals significant in helping the students decide the best college to attend for their specific area of interest. The competitions are wonderful ways of networking and gaining insight to the many opportunities in this field. Inaugurated in 1998, the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) provides an educational forum for high school students to excel in math and science and receive national recognition for their diligence and talents. The NOSB is administered by the Washington DC based Consortium for Ocean Leadership.
As a side note: Bill Wise and I were in Gulfport , Mississippi 10 years ago, the last time Mississippi was the host site for the finals and 4 months before Hurricane Katrina made her appearance. Many of those responsible for the 2005 finals were involved in this years’ competition as well. They shared photos that were taken during the last competition and photos immediately after Katrina in the very same locations and to say it was sobering, is an understatement. In addition to the many lives lost in that particular region alone, the photos of the beautiful aquarium where most of the 2005 competition was held showed just cement poles with wires jutting from it (most of the animals were lost) and in addition, the hotel, museum, and many of the other buildings we were in, exhibited nothing but rubble. To learn that most of the beautiful antebellum homes along Beach Boulevard were completely destroyed was upsetting as well; pieces of history that can never be duplicated. However, on a positive note, the area is being rebuilt, including the aquarium, and many of the folks who fled the area after Katrina are slowly coming back. The newer homes and buildings are being built stronger than previously and take into account hurricane winds and tidal surges. So while we will never be able to control Mother Nature, we’re learning how to be more proactive in dealing with her .
– Kim Knoll