Local High Schools Show Ocean Science Knowledge in the Orca Bowl and the Salmon Bowl with help from NOAA Staff

Winter 2013

Last month, students from high schools in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho went head-to-head in a battle of science knowledge—and some good fun—at regional National Ocean Sciences Bowl competitions. Now, the winning teams are reading up for the 16th Annual National Ocean Science Bowl Competition Finals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Student teams from across the country will compete April 18th to 21st at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

ocean bowl group 

Seattle Orca Bowl participants posed with our full-sized replica of J-26, also known as "Mike". Photograph courtesy of Washington Sea Grant. 

The Consortium for Ocean Leadership sponsors yearly National Ocean Sciences Bowl competitions across the country in their mission to promote science teaching and learning. Two regional competitions were held in the Northwest: the Orca Bowl in Seattle, hosted by Washington Sea Grant at the University of Washington, and the Salmon Bowl in Corvallis, hosted by Oregon State University. 

At the Orca Bowl, NOAA scientists, managers, and staff assisted in the competition rooms or worked as general volunteers. Our life-sized replica of J-26, also known as "Mike", was a huge hit too!  Washington Sea Grant organized over one hundred volunteers to help with the Orca Bowl. Students contended for prizes such as University of Washington oceanography scholarships and shipboard science experiences, in addition to the opportunity to compete in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl Finals in April. 

After the competition, dinner, and awards ceremony, students were treated to a sleep-over at the Seattle Aquarium. Orca Bowl’s first place winners, an all-girl team from Garfield High School, came to the competition dressed as pirates, an example of the spirited participation that makes these events fun-filled and rewarding for all involved.

Garfield team

2013 Orca Bowl Winners, Garfield High School Team A. Left to right: Allie Warren, Laura Watson, Helen Ippolito, Sidney Tiemann, Coach Jonathan Stever. Photograph courtesy of Washington Sea Grant. 

.Friday Harbor Team

Friday Harbor High School Team A, who will participate in the National Competition in Milwaukee. Photograph courtesy of Washington Sea Grant. 

In Oregon, NOAA staff helped the team from Portland’s Benson High School prepare for the Salmon Bowl competition. NOAA staff members Rob Clapp, Bob Embley, Lynne Krasnow, Anne Mullen, Scott Rumsey, and Chris Toole mentored students in topics such as deep sea biology, climate change, population dynamics, fisheries management, marine geology, marine vents, and marine biology. Students also took a field trip to NOAA Fisheries’ Point Adams Biological Research Station at Hammond, Oregon, where they got some first-hand experience with ocean research techniques.

Benson High School Team 1

Portland's Benson High School Salmon Bowl team: Left to right: back row - Chris Toole (NOAA), Kien Tran, Theo Nguyen, Capt. Steve Ford (Guest Speaker), Matt Pellico (Teacher). Front row: Ben Bui, Keighley Overbay, Hoang Duong, Jean Eames (Teacher), Amy Le. NOAA photograph.

Benson High School Team 2

Benson's Salmon Bowl team preparing to compete in Corvallis. NOAA photograph.

At the Salmon Bowl, the final battle for first place came down to two teams: Neah-Kah-Nie High School (Rockaway Beach, Oregon) and Treasure Valley Math and Science Center (Boise, Idaho). The competition was fierce between these two rivals, who had also come head-to-head for the final round in last year’s competition.

“In the final game … we had a tied score and had to go to the five tie-breaker questions.  On the last tie-breaker question our coastal team [Neah-Kah-Nie] beat the students from Boise, Idaho, who had run off with our title last year. Fantastic!”
~ Gene Williamson, event supporter and former teacher.

At the national finals in April, the award for the top three or four teams will be a trip to a marine research facility where students will get invaluable hands-on experience. Award trips in the past have included the Duke Marine Lab in North Carolina and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. All students who participate in National Ocean Sciences Bowl, and who are interested in pursuing a degree in an ocean or marine related field, are eligible to apply for the National Ocean Scholar Program scholarship.

The dedication shown by schools, coaches, and students, all of whom shine at these competitions year after year, is inspiring. By encouraging students to take ocean science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to new levels, programs such as the National Ocean Sciences Bowl work to ensure a future of informed marine policy.


Competition questions cover a range of ocean science disciplines. 

Here are a few sample questions

Question: Northern elephant seals come ashore during the spring and summer to do what?
Answer: Molt their fur

Question: What is the approximate age of the oldest oceanic crust?
Answer: 180 million years

To see more sample questions, or try out a quiz to test your knowledge of ocean science, visit the National Ocean Sciences Bowl website.