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February 20, 2007

Juneau-Douglas sweeps ocean sciences bowl

Seward, Alaska—Many Alaskans may pride themselves on their coastal knowledge, but some would be stumped by a question like: "Which of the following genera of marine algae is not calcified?"

The high school students who gathered in Seward over the weekend answered hundreds of questions like this, often within two to three seconds.

The tenth annual Alaska Region Ocean Sciences Bowl, also known as the Tsunami Bowl, was held in Seward on Saturday, February 10. The science bowl is a day-long, rapid-fire quiz style competition, complete with jeopardy-style questions and team challenge written questions.

Forty-one high school students in nine different teams came from around the state to compete in this regional version of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB). This year's teams included three teams from Juneau-Douglas High School, two teams from Kenny Lake in Interior Alaska and one team each from Tenakee Springs on Chichagof Island in southeast Alaska, Unalaska, Soldotna, and Cordova.

The three teams from Juneau-Douglas High School dominated the competition, scoring first, second and third place. The first place team, Team 585, with students Drake Skaggs, Hillary Buck, Eva Ceder and Deidre Ratigan, won a tuition waiver to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Team 585 also won a trip to Stonybrook, New York, where they will compete in the national finals of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl in late April. Ben Carney, the coach for Team 585, received a tuition waiver for a marine science course for teachers to be held at UAF's Kasitsna Bay Laboratory this summer.

Drake Skaggs, the captain of Team 585, says the win was not just about his team's knowledge of the oceans. "You have to know how to play the game," said Skaggs. "That can be just as important as knowing the answers. There were a lot of smart kids there-- I think it helped that we had the experience from playing last year."

"Team 585 was ravenous for victory," said Clay Good, longtime Tsunami Bowl coach and oceanography teacher at Juneau-Douglas High School, "no doubt because they were survivors of last year's avalanche-crippled Tsunami Bowl in Seward. Even though members of Team 585 won first place in the regional bowl last year, they did not get to attend the national competition in Pacific Grove, California."

"As a result, they spent this entire year focused on reclaiming the NOSB banner for Juneau," said Good.

The Tsunami Bowl's second place winners, the Juneau-Douglas High School Ice Pirates, won tuition waivers to the University of Alaska Southeast. Juneau-Douglas High School Team Aquarius earned third place. Although Juneau-Douglas High won the top three prizes, the performance by all of the teams was inspiring for the event judges, volunteers and audience members.

"The knowledge these students have of the ocean and its living resources is impressive," said Denis Wiesenburg, dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "I hope they will become part of the next generation of ocean scientists. Alaska will be well represented in the scientific community by these brilliant students."

For the first time in the quiz bowl's history, next year's national finals of the NOSB will be held in Alaska. Hosted by the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, the NOSB finals will take place in Seward from April 25-27, 2008. The event will attract 26 teams of high school students and approximately 250 volunteers, students, judges, and family members from around the United States to Seward.

As Drake Skaggs and the rest of Team 585 could tell you, within seconds after hearing the question, the genera of marine algae that is not calcified is called caulerpa.

The National Ocean Sciences Bowl was established in 1998 to encourage learning about the oceans and increase the teaching of ocean sciences in high schools. Support for the NOSB is provided by the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education. The regional competition is supported by the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, the Alaska Sea Grant College Program, and the North Pacific Research Board.


Carin Bailey
Public Information Officer
UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
Tel: (907) 322-8730

Phyllis Shoemaker
Event Coordinator
UAF SFOS Seward Marine Center
Tel: (907) 224-4312

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