Members of High School North’s National Ocean Sciences Bowl team: Shreyash Singh (left), Keshav Ratra, Vijay Josephs, Vivek Vajipeyand and coach Regina Celin.

Students from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North took fifth place in the national finals of the 23rd Annual National Ocean Sciences Bowl last month.

High School North’s top finish comes after it won the regional competition, the NOSB’s Shore Bowl, in February. Team members are Shreyash Singh , Keshav Ratra, Vijay Josephs and Vivek Vajipey. They are coached by North physics teacher Regina Celin.

The NOSB is an interdisciplinary ocean science education program of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. It tests students’ knowledge of ocean science topics, including cross-disciplines of biology, chemistry, policy, physics and geology. This year, due to the COVID-19 public health crisis, students competed in a modified, virtual version of finals.

To qualify for finals, the teams first had to win their regional competitions, which took place prior to nationwide school closures and restrictions on meetings. In total, more than 278 teams (made up of almost 1,400 students representing 30 states) participated, adding to the over than 30,000 students who have passed through the ocean sciences competition over the last 23 years.

A full list of the 2020 NOSB Finals participants is available here. Nineteen regional winners made the quick transition to competing in a virtual event rather than in-person at the University of Southern Mississippi as originally planned.

“I am immensely proud of and impressed by our NOSB teams this year, both for their adaptability under pressure and their vast and deep knowledge of ocean issues,” said RADM Jon White, president and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. “While I was saddened not to be able to share my own Gulf Coast experiences with this year’s finalists at the University of Mississippi, I couldn’t have been more pleased with how thoughtful and engaged these students were from afar. With them as our future ocean leaders, I am confident that our planet’s future is in safe hands, even in uncharted waters.”

Coinciding with the 10-year anniversary on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, this year’s competition theme, “Understanding Human, Economic and Environmental Resiliency in the Gulf of Mexico,” saw students study the complex connections between ocean issues and the people who call the Gulf of Mexico home.

Buzzer-style multiple choice and longer, critical thinking-based questions tested students on their knowledge of the many fascinating and complex functions of the Gulf of Mexico, America’s “living laboratory,” from its role in regulating global ocean temperature to its importance as a home to a diverse array of flora and fauna.

Teams also presented science recommendations on a piece of legislation in the Science Expert Briefing, a mock congressional hearing that enhances the critical thinking elements of the competition and focuses on real-world skills.

In addition to the quiz bowl-style competition questions, participants were scored separately on their performance in the SEB. Newport High School (Bellevue, Washington) won this portion of the competition, while Santa Monica High School (Santa Monica, California) came in second and Canyon Crest Academy (San Diego, California) came in third.

“The NOSB prides itself on teaching all of our participants the kinds of real-world skills that help students become effective team members and leaders, and this year is no exception,” said  Kristen Yarincik, NOSB program director. “It takes more than just knowing what an Ekman spiral is or how mid-ocean ridges work to be a successful ocean scientist. It takes resiliency, flexibility, creative thinking and collaboration, all of which our teams exemplified this year.”

Due to the ongoing public health concerns surrounding COVID-19, this year’s award experiences will also take place virtually. Each of the top eight teams will receive gift cards to split among their members, and the teams in ninth through 12th place will receive books.

* * *

Now in its 23rd year, the NOSB seeks to interest students in pursuing a college degree and a future career in the ocean sciences. Through this educational forum, the NOSB strives to encourage and support the next generation of marine scientists, policy makers, teachers, explorers, researchers, technicians, environmental advocates, and informed citizens to consider and appreciate the ocean.

Most high school students do not have the opportunity to study ocean science as part of their formal coursework, which makes the NOSB one of the only ways students gain exposure to this field. Many past NOSB participants have moved on to pursue college degrees and careers in ocean science, helping to solve the growing environmental, economic and security issues facing our ocean and planet.

The Consortium for Ocean Leadership is a Washington, D.C. nonprofit organization that represents the leading public and private ocean research education institutions, aquaria, and industry with the mission to shape the future of ocean science and technology. In addition to its advocacy role as the voice of the ocean research and technology community, COL manages a variety of community-wide research and education programs in areas of ocean observing, ocean exploration and ocean partnerships.