2017 Alaska Tsunami Bowl sparks science engagement

February 27, 2017

students on stage with a podium and projection screen The “Lucky Pollucky” team from Unalaska City High School presents their research project at the 2017 Alaska Tsunami Ocean Sciences Bowl in Seward, Alaska. Melissa Good photo.

Sixteen high school teams from across Alaska met in Seward on February 16 to compete in an ocean-based academic competition. Dubbed the Tsunami Bowl, the regional competition is part of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl program.

The Tsunami Bowl is one of many quiz bowls held nationwide with the aim of engaging students in ocean sciences, preparing them for ocean-related and other STEM (science-technology-engineering-math) careers, and helping them become knowledgeable stewards of the marine environment. These competitions are often the first exposure students have to ocean-related topics and issues.

Something that sets the Tsunami Bowl apart from the other regional competitions is that Alaska is the only region asking students to write a research paper and to give an oral presentation before competing in the buzzer-style quiz bowl. Each year a theme is assigned—in 2017 the theme was “Resource Management in a Warming Pacific.”

student in a crane simulator The crane simulator at the Alaska Vocational Technical Center (AVTEC) in Seward was a popular draw during fields trips for the 2017 Alaska Tsunami Ocean Sciences Bowl teams. Sunny Rice photo.

The research aspect of the competition expands students’ knowledge of environmental issues, while also teaching them how to work together and to use interdisciplinary approaches to understand causes and effects within their chosen topic. The students learn how to conduct literature reviews and vet sources. Working on the project takes their education outside the classroom, getting them involved with scientists, resource managers, and community leaders.

“My team had a ton of fun and learned a lot!” said Melissa Good, Unalaska team coach and Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory agent. “We have three freshmen, a junior, and a senior this year. The freshmen are anxious to start learning more about marine sciences, even asking for study materials that they can use to get ready for next year, and our senior will be attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks this fall and is interested in pursuing marine biology.”

“These sparks of inspiration to learn more about our marine ecosystems and the issues affecting them are so important, and I do not think they would happen without this great opportunity,” she said.

Each year, winners of the regional bowls go on to compete against each other at the national bowl. The 20th annual National Ocean Sciences Bowl will be held in Corvallis, Oregon, in April. Good luck to the Mat-Su Career and Technical High School “Mat-Tsunamis,” winners of the 2017 Alaska Tsunami Bowl.

— By Melissa Good

Alaska Sea Grant is a statewide marine research, education, and outreach program, and is a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agents provide assistance that helps Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy marine and coastal resources.