By: Tiffany Whitfield  

The first ever Ocean Bowl hosted by Old Dominion University’s department of Ocean & Earth Sciences was held on Saturday, February 25 at the Virginia Beach higher education center campus. Some of the best and brightest minds from across the Commonwealth of Virginia assembled for a head-to-head competition all about marine science. Eight teams of high school students battled it out on the field of scientific competition to see which one would emerge as the winner of the one and only Ocean Bowl.  

Every year for 25 years, OES and Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) has hosted the Blue Crab Bowl, which was organized by the National Ocean Science Bowl (NOSB). However, the NOSB is going through a restructuring 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 will not be held in 2023 for high school competitors. 

Because of this gap year, ODU faculty, staff and students stepped in to fill in this gap year to create the 2023 Ocean Bowl. There were 40 students that faced off in round after round in live competition. The synergy was felt from the first round of buzzers sounding off until the final round. With some of the brightest minds from across the Commonwealth answering scientific quiz-bowl questions competitors flexed their mental muscles through each round.  

“With the help of our generous faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate student volunteers as well as two veteran Ocean 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 10 high schools from across Virginia some were from the middle and upper peninsula areas of Hampton Roads and Charlottesville.  

After for more than seven hours of rapid-fire multiple choice and short answer questions, the competition ended with a nail-biting conclusion. 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: 

  • Albemarle High School 
  • Churchland High School Portsmouth, Virginia  
  • New Horizons Governor’s School for Science & Technology Hampton, Virginia Norfolk Collegiate School Norfolk, Virginia  
  • Tidewater Academy –Team A Wakefield, Virginia  
  • Tidewater Academy –Team B Wakefield, VA 

“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”,” said Dobbs. 

The amount of work that went into the Ocean Bowl was recognized by participants and coaches. “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,” said Dunn. “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. Any questions you might have concerning the Blue Crab Bowl competition in 2024 may be addressed to Bill Dunn at