What is the National Ocean Sciences Bowl?


Each year, Alaska holds a regional ocean sciences competition as part of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB), a nationwide academic competition for high school students with a focus on marine and coastal environments. A unique aspect of the Alaska regional NOSB is the research component of the competition, in which teams of four or five students prepare a research paper that is submitted in December, and present an oral presentation at the Tsunami Bowl in February.

Read more about the NOSB competition and its impact on schools across the United States in an article written for Sea Technology.

Want In on the Action?

November 15 is the deadline to indicate the intent to participate in each year's Alaska Regional NOSB. To encourage maximum representation across the state, only one team per school is accepted, on a first-come, first-served basis, until October 1. If space is available after October 1, additional teams from schools already accepted can sign up.

Contact science bowl coordinator Sydney Bolin to find out how your high school can join in the fun, or check out our web pages for coaches and teams. The number of teams is limited, so act early for the best chance of participating in the next National Ocean Sciences Bowl.

Sydney Bolin
Tsunami Bowl Regional Coordinator
Alaska SeaLife Center
Seward, Alaska
(907) 224-6304


The goal of this competition is to recognize and reward excellence among students interested in ocean studies. The bowl also aims to encourage high school students, their teachers and parents to increase their knowledge of the oceans and to broaden awareness of the critical value of ocean research.


In the quiz competition, students must be the first to “buzz-in” for the opportunity to answer a multiple-choice or short-answer question. The game is organized as a series of matches in a round-robin/double-elimination format. In each match, two teams compete against each other and the clock, trying to be the fastest to answer the toss-up questions. Team challenge questions, more complex questions which require critical analysis and written answers, test students’ critical thinking skills.

For the research project, students must prepare an in-depth research document on a specific ocean-related question or problem and must give an oral presentation on their work. Each component is judged by a panel of scientists. The project (like success in ocean sciences) requires an interdisciplinary team effort, the ability to assimilate and prioritize large quantities of often-conflicting results, and the ability to persuasively communicate the results and benefits of the research.


The NOSB is sponsored by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. The Alaska regional competition is hosted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, with additional support from Alaska Sea Grant and various marine-related government agencies, private businesses, and individuals.

The National Ocean Sciences Bowl

The Consortium for Ocean Leadership, along with its member institutions, conducts a national competition for high schools on topics related to the study of the oceans: the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.

The NOSB was first conducted in the winter and spring of 1998 in honor of the International Year of the Ocean.

The NOSB mission is to enrich science teaching and learning across the United States through a high-profile national competition that increases high school students’ knowledge of the oceans and enhances public understanding and stewardship of the oceans.


  1. Develop knowledgeable ocean stewards who understand the ocean’s impact on daily life and the importance of scientific research;
  2. Foster the use of the ocean as an interdisciplinary vehicle to teach science and mathematics and encourage the inclusion of the ocean sciences in curricula;
  3. Encourage and support the involvement of underrepresented and geographically diverse communities in the ocean sciences; and
  4. Provide students interactive education that develops critical thinking and skills for the workforce and exposes them to ocean science professionals and career opportunities.

Regional and Final Competitions

The Consortium for Ocean Leadership, with the assistance of the Technical Advisory Panel, prepares the competition rules and regulations and the specific questions used in both the regional and national competitions.

The competition incorporates a round-robin form for the early rounds and a double-elimination feature for final rounds.

National Scholarships

In an effort to recognize individual achievement as part of the NOSB program, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership supports the National Ocean Scholar Program for NOSB students who are interested in pursuing an ocean or marine-related topic in college. Scholars will receive monetary support for the first two years of undergraduate studies. Details on the scholarship program, including criteria for the program, the application process, and an application form in PDF, are available on the national NOSB website.

National Coordinators and Sponsors

The NOSB is a collaborative effort between the Consortium for Ocean Leadership and the NOSB host institutions. The NOSB is generously supported by U.S. government agencies, corporations, foundations, other non-governmental organizations, and many individuals.

Regional Coordinators and Volunteers

Regional sites are selected from among the Consortium for Ocean Leadership institutional membership for the regional bowl competitions. Each site has a staff member as the primary coordinator for the region. The regional coordinators are trained by Consortium for Ocean Leadership staff on how to organize and administer the regional competition. Each regional bowl and the finals is staffed and run by volunteers (e.g., faculty members, students, administrative staff, etc.).

The ultimate success of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl requires the concerted efforts of many hundreds of volunteer staff at the regional competitions and the finals. Training and preparing these volunteers for their key roles is the responsibility of the Regional and National Consortium for Ocean Leadership staff. These volunteers serve as moderators, scientific judges, rules judges, timers and scorekeepers. Each regional bowl coordinator is responsible for raising local funds to cover such costs as program printing and reproduction, meals and snacks for the program competitors, and trophies or similar awards for the winning regional teams.

Participating High Schools

The Consortium for Ocean Leadership institutions hosting a regional competition define the geographic area included in their competition, and invite schools located in those regions. Schools participating in the regional bowl pay their own expenses to the regional competition.

The Technical Advisory Panel

The Technical Advisory Panel is composed of approximately 15 ocean scientists, university-level educators and high school teachers to provide overall guidance and advice to the development of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl. Specifically, the panel provides technical oversight on the preparation of competition questions.

Approximately 3000 questions are prepared for the competitions. The questions are organized for the regional and national competitions in order of increasing difficulty.


The national NOSB site provides a resource guide of study resources, sample questions, and other useful information.

The resource guide is used to direct interested students and their teachers to key information and materials on ocean research and related topics. The actual questions for the regional and final competitions are drawn—at least in part—from this resource material. Preparation of this guide was necessary because most high school science courses do not include ocean research per se as part of their content; students will often study weather formation, global climate issues, marine mammals and earth sciences, but not the oceans as the major engines of global climate and weather. Moreover, the general ocean sciences (physical and chemical oceanography, etc.) and specific ocean phenomena (currents, heat transfer mechanisms, etc.) are rarely studied at all.

The resource guide includes citations to a number of key sources of information on the oceans—textbooks, CD-ROMs, and select sites on the Web. This guide has been reviewed by the Technical Advisory Panel, and was prepared by Consortium for Ocean Leadership/NMEA staff.


Prizes for the Alaska regional competition are donated by a number of individuals and organizations.