Monday, students from Ladue Horton Watkins High School (Saint Louis, MO) won the National Finals of the 23rd Annual National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB), the first-ever virtual NOSB competition. This is Ladue Horton Watkins High School’s second time at Finals and their first National title. An interdisciplinary ocean science education program of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the NOSB tests students’ knowledge of ocean science topics, including cross-disciplines of biology, chemistry, policy, physics, and geology. Students on the championship team include Christopher Ye, Eric Yin, Jason Ding, Jason Xu and Max Yang. They are coached by Wei Ye. 

To qualify for Finals, the teams first had to win their regional competitions. In total, more than 278 teams (made up of approximately 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 planned.

“Congratulations to our winners from Ladue Horton Watkins High School and to all teams who participated in our regional bowls and at the national level,” said RADM Jon White, President and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. “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. 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 (SEB), a mock congressional hearing that enhances the critical thinking elements of the competition and focuses on real-world skills. 

The top eight teams at the Finals Competition were: 

1st Place – Ladue Horton Watkins High School (St. Louis, Missouri) 

2nd Place – Santa Monica High School (Santa Monica, California) 

3rd Place – Dougherty Valley High School (San Ramon, California)

4th Place – Centerville High School (Centerville, Ohio) 

5th Place – West Windsor-Plainsboro North (Plainsboro Township, New Jersey) 

6th Place – Newport High School (Seattle, Washington)

7th Place – Lexington High School (Lexington, Massachusetts)

8th Place – Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts (Hot Springs, Arkansas)

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.

“In addition to our mission of ocean education, 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. 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,” shared Kristen Yarincik, NOSB Program Director, “Thank you to our national office staff; the University of Southern Mississippi team; and every volunteer, regional coordinator, coach, parent, and student who worked so hard to make this year a success under pressure.”

Due to the ongoing public health concerns surrounding COVID-19, this year’s award experiences will also take place virtually, with the top four teams getting exclusive opportunities to talk to leaders in the ocean science community about ocean issues, their career paths, and more. First place will speak with Dr. Sylvia Earle, noted marine biologist and first female chief scientist of NOAA; second place will speak with RDML (Ret.) Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., assistant secretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator; third place will talk to Dr. Ellen Prager, marine scientist, author, and science communicator; and fourth place will meet with and Dr. Dawn Wright, oceanographer and chief scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri). Each of the top eight teams will receive gift cards to split amongst their members, and the teams in ninth through 12th place will receive books.

The 2020 national NOSB program is made possible through the following major sponsors:  

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Gulf Research Program
  • Wendy & Eric Schmidt
  • Deerbrook Charitable Trust
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • Shell Exploration & Production Company
  • Lockheed Martin
  • American Honda Foundation
  • Sharon and Wayne Sternberger
  • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
  • Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
  • IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society
  • MacGregor Norway AS
  • Marine Technology Society

A complete list of sponsors can be found here.