As I write this, I’m sitting in a room surrounded by a pile of graded question papers for the Chesapeake Bay Bowl, the Washington DC/Virginia/Maryland/Delaware regional competition for the National OceanScience Bowl. For those who don’t know about these competitions, they are ocean science quizzes for high school students. The competition consists of alternating multiple choice buzzer questions and more detailed written question sections. The questions for both are submitted by marine science professionals from all fields of oceanography and marine policy. And boy, are some of these questions tough ! The judges, who are experts from universities and government agencies (such as NOAA, USGS and the Navy) frequently are stumped by the questions, that some of student teams breeze through. These students can be scarily smart. The Ocean Science Bowl competitions are like the Bletchley Park of upcoming marine science students. The events are also great for the volunteers, with expert judges, undergraduate and graduate students, and naval midshipmen asking question, calculating score, running around with question sheets – it’s a great chance for networking and mentoring.
But these great events were almost committed to the trashcan of educational initiatives thanks to US Congressional budgeting.Thankfully some funding was allocated for the events, although the events are running on a shoestring. The current event is largely being sponsored by one of the local universities and run with volunteers.
Heaven forbid that a continent surrounded by oceans... with many States whose economy depends on the marine environment... with the largest navy in the world... with an enormous amount of ocean-borne trade... should invest in promoting excellence in oceanography and marine science....!
If like me, you are bewildered why this event should get the short funding straw, this article gives some ideas about what you can do to help keep these awesome events going.