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Save the National Ocean Sciences Bowl!

nosbThe National Ocean Sciences Bowl is a competition for high school students focused on marine biology, physics and chemistry . Through cooperation between researchers, teachers and community members, NOSB aims to educate students and their families about science and sustainable stewardship of ocean resources. Thousands of the smartest high school students in the United States from hundreds of schools participate each year. Thorough evaluations of the program’s results show that educators and parents who participate as coaches gain leadership and teaching skills,  students who compete further improve their knowledge of science, and everyone involved learns about why the ocean is important. By any measure, the National Ocean Sciences Bowl has been an unqualified success.

Unfortunately, as revealed in a Science News article this week, NOSB’s continued existence is threatened by budget cuts. Some of the regional bowls that provide contestants for the national competition have been cancelled, or are no longer held annually. Cuts are hitting those regional catering to geographic and demographic communities under-represented in the marine sciences particularly hard. “The NOSB is one of the ways we get students from rural Alaska involved in ocean science,” says Dr. Leslie Cornick, chair of the Environmental Sciences department at Alaska Pacific University. “It would be a real blow to the state for it to disappear.”

Many marine scientists credit NOSB with setting them on their current career path. “NOSB made me more passionate about chemistry, oceanography, and geology; whereas before I joined the team I believed biology would be the only science I could ever enjoy,” said Hannah Benton, a marine science major at the College of Charleston. “If we can’t provide these kinds of opportunities for students today then we risk losing future would-be scientists who haven’t yet realized their true passion.”

“I was constantly amazed by the quality of the students that participated in the oceans bowl. I mean these kids are the best and the brightest in the nation, and by participating in oceans bowls we get to encourage them into oceanography and marine sciences,” Dr. Chris Parsons, the former President of the Society for Conservation Biology’s Marine Section (and a writer for Southern Fried Science) said. “In twenty years time when these now students are trying to save fish stocks so that people in coastal communities can still have livelihoods, and running computer modeling systems that save us from hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes, the government will be grateful of the billions of they saved because of a tiny investment in the science bowls now.”

“The NOSB is a source of knowledge to high school students, but also a place to make lasting relationships and connections that will persist throughout their careers in the marine sciences,”  said Alix Jacobson, a law student at the University of Wisconsin, a Blue Crab bowl alum and Lake Sturgeon Bowl judge.

“For many students, this is the introduction to the marine science field for them and gives them a unique opportunity for them to communicate with scientists about the subject and about career options,” said Laura Bracken,  CARTHE Outreach Manager at the University of Miami and Manatee Bowl regional coordinator.  “This is a valuable experience that should be expanded, not eliminated.

“The Ocean Science Bowl provides a unique opportunity for high school students to become excited about science, learn problem solving skills, work as a team, and meet other like-minded students with similar interests,” said Dr. Stephanie Schopmeyer, a research associate at the University of Miami and a NOSB volunteer. “It will be very unfortunate to lose funding for the NOSB because there are so few academic challenges available for high school students which promote the concept of how valuable a strong science education can be!! This type of competition molds our future scientists and we need to support them!”

If you’re concerned by the potential loss of such a great program, Melissa Brodeur, the National Ocean Sciences Bowl program manager, has shared several ways that you can help:

1) Follow NOSB on social media (twitter, Facebook, e-mail list) , and share stories about the impact that the program has! “Specifically, our end of year/Giving Tuesday crowdsourcing campaign will begin in early November,” Brodeur said. “We are hoping to raise $5,000 for NOSB scholarships and general student support. Obviously donations are appreciated, but we really need help in spreading the word about the program, so the more our campaign is shared, hopefully the more new supporters we’ll reach.”

2) If you’re going to shop on Amazon, use the Consortium for Ocean Leadership “Amazon Smile” page and 5% of your purchase will be donated.

3) If you have connections with any potential funding partners (corporations, charity organizations, etc) who might be interested in helping out, let NOSB know!

4) You can donate directly to NOSB through their Razoo page.

5) You can contact your elected officials! As funding issues are complex, Brodeur recommends the following language: “Please restore NOAA education and STEM funding, as well as similar funding to other federal agencies with ocean science missions, to ensure strong ocean education and training programs such as the National Ocean Sciences Bowl continue to generate excitement in students and train our future workforce in order to address the many scientific challenges facing our nation, our coasts and our oceans.”

6) You can volunteer to help organize a bowl near you, or to help coach a team.

7) You can write or review potential questions for the competition (contact Amanda Holloway, Aholloway AT oceanleadership DOT org)

Please help us to save the National Ocean Sciences Bowl!


Author’s note: I’ve submitted questions to the National Ocean Sciences Bowl and led a snorkeling trip for a winning team once. Other than that, I have no affiliation with NOSB.