By Tiffany Whitfield

The first-ever Ocean Bowl, hosted by Old Dominion University’s Department of Ocean & Earth Sciences, was held on Feb. 25 at the Virginia Beach Higher Education Center. Some of the best and brightest minds from across Virginia assembled for a head-to-head competition about marine science. Eight teams of high school students battled it out to see which one would win the one and only Ocean Bowl.

Every year for 25 years, OES and Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) have hosted the Blue Crab Bowl, which was organized by the National Ocean Science Bowl (NOSB). However, the NOSB is being restructured under a new consortium, the Center for Ocean Leadership at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), and did not plan to sponsor regional science bowls, meaning that a national bowl for high school competitors will not take place in 2023.

Because of this gap year, ODU faculty, staff and students stepped in to to create the 2023 Ocean Bowl.

“With the help of our generous faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate student volunteers, as well as two veteran Blue Crab Bowl officials from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, we were able to host an exciting competition for 40 sharp high school students with a keen interest in science,” said Bill Dunn, ODU's regional coordinator and a former Blue Crab Bowl coach.

The eight competing teams of students represented seven high schools from across Virginia, including some from Hampton Roads.

After more than seven hours of rapid-fire multiple-choice and short-answer questions, the competition ended with a nail-biting conclusion, as a team with one loss came back and claimed top prize. The winning teams were:

First Place: Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School, Warsaw

Second Place: Albemarle High School, Charlottesville

Third Place: Churchland High School, Portsmouth

Fourth Place: Catholic High School, Virginia Beach

The other competitors from Virginia schools in this year’s Ocean Bowl were:

  • New Horizons Governor’s School for Science & Technology, Hampton
  • Norfolk Collegiate School, Norfolk
  • Tidewater Academy – Team A, Wakefield
  • Tidewater Academy – Team B, Wakefield

“Every coach with whom I spoke, especially those whose teams have been long-standing participants in this annual competition, expressed great anticipation, relief and delight in our return to an in-person competition,” said OES Chair and Professor Fred Dobbs. “It was a long, long day, but very satisfying, in large part because our wonderful ODU volunteers made all things go as smoothly as possible.”

Months of preparation went into this year’s Ocean Bowl. “We were most appreciative that two Blue Crab Bowl ‘old-timers’ from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Carol Hopper Brill and Rich Brill, came down to help Professor Emeritus Rich Whittecar grade the ‘Team Challenge Questions,’” Dobbs said.

Participants and coaches recognized the amount of work involved in presenting the Ocean Bowl. “The veteran coaches and the high school students I spoke with were genuinely thankful for the effort and professionalism of our dedicated corps of volunteers and are looking forward to returning next year,” Dunn said. “Our decision was quickly validated when we heard from the appreciative coaches and competing team members.”

The Blue Crab Bowl tradition will start anew in 2024. Address questions about next year’s competition to Bill Dunn at