By Tiffany Whitfield

The Blue Crab Bowl can be considered the Super Bowl for ocean sciences. Students from 16 Virginia high schools participated in the the 23rd annual edition, an all-day competition that tested their knowledge of oceanography, geology, biology, maritime history and policy.

The morning began with round-robin competitions. By late afternoon, the teams had gone head to head through double eliminations and finally the championship rounds. Catholic High School, from Virginia Beach, won in a close match against Seton High School from Manassas.

Elaine Luria, U.S. representative for Virginia's 2nd congressional district, presented the top four winners with the coveted blue crab bowls.

"I think it's a great opportunity for students to dig deeper into ocean sciences and learn as a team," Luria said. "I hope other students who are coming up in the high schools can learn about the competition. What was most notable to me is that all the students looked like they were having fun and going deeper into a subject they might explore for a career opportunity."

The College of Sciences, Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (OEAS), Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and the College of William & Mary hosted the regional competition.

"There's nothing more fun to see than the competitors' heads burrowed together working on their team challenge questions and to feel the palpable excitement in the room," said Fred Dobbs, chair of OEAS at ODU.

One round was decided by one point.

"What a wonderful team effort by our College of Sciences faculty, staff and students as well as our colleagues from VIMS and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)," said Bill Dunn, ODU's Blue Crab Bowl regional coordinator. "We were able to show motivated high school students from across Virginia what marine scientists do and love and give them experiences that may well impact their future."

Brynn Pecher, a research technician at the Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography (CCPO), joined Dunn in coordinating the competition and associated activities, which included tours of College of Sciences laboratories, the research vessel Fay Slover and a lecture by OEAS Professor Richard Zimmerman.

"Even though only one team walked away as the declared winner, the competitors rose to the occasion by showcasing their love for science," Dunn said. "There was a sense of camaraderie amongst the students. They worked for months studying ocean sciences, geology, policies and more. Students in the competition all want to pursue degrees in the sciences, and that is a win-win."

Schools competing included Catholic High School, Chesapeake Bay Governor's School Glenns Campus, Chesapeake Bay Governor's School Warsaw, Churchland High School, Cosby High School, Fauquier High School, Governor's School for Science & Technology, Isle of Wight Academy, Landstown High School, Maury High School, Norfolk Collegiate A & B, Patrick Henry High School, Seton School and York High School.

Catholic High School moves on to the National Ocean Sciences Bowl competition in Long Beach/Gulfport, Miss., in April.

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