Written by Sean Beckwith, PhD student
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – Do you have an advanced degree in oceanography? Have you spent a good portion of your life trying to discover the secrets that the sea has to offer? Third question…do you think you could correctly answer all (or even most) of the questions at the 2019 Spoonbill Bowl?
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to witness the competition portion of this event, you probably would not answer an emphatic ‘Yes’ to that last question. Unless, perhaps, reviewing all four core disciplines of oceanography nightly before going to bed is your thing. And even then, most people would be apt to miss a few of the questions posed to the teams of high school students participating in the regional Spoonbill Bowl, a prelude to the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.
Covering the disciplines of geology, chemistry, biology, and physics, the competition also touches on geography, ecology, and marine technologies.
On Saturday, February 16th, 2019, eleven high schools from across west central Florida fielded teams to compete against each other in a Round Robin style competition during the morning portion of the tournament followed by a playoff style competition in the afternoon.
The questions asked by the moderator in each of the competition rooms included multiple-choice questions worth 4 points, bonus questions worth 6 points, Team Challenge Questions (TCQ’s) worth up to 20 points, and a sportsmanship score of up to 5 points per round.
Quizzing the students on all things ocean, Dr. Kathy Guindon, a USF College of Marine Science (USFCMS) alumna who worked as a research scientist at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) and now serves as Director of the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center, assumed the role of moderator in Competition Room #6. She was flanked by Bob Muller, a statistical modeler from FWRI, serving as Science Judge for the Bowl, and Dan Otis, a researcher at USFCMS specializing in satellite remote sensing, serving as Rules Judge.
Rounding out the volunteers in Room 6 were Makenzie Burrows, an M.S. student at USFCMS serving as Timekeeper, Alexandra Burns, a Ph.D. student at USFCMS serving as Scorekeeper, Isabelle Atchia, a coastal geology data analyst with the USGS serving as a Runner, and also serving as a Runner, Chris Witt, a student of Marine Biology at Eckerd College.
In total, 60 volunteers from a number of ocean science walks of life came together to steward a successful event, the 15th year of the Spoonbill Bowl. A number of agencies, universities and other organizations sponsored the event or were represented by volunteers. In “Bowl Control,” as the sign on the door to the room read, a panel of subject matter experts waited to review the handwritten, group-effort responses to the TCQ’s, which the Runners would promptly deliver as soon as each 3-minute answer period expired. The experts for this year’s Bowl Control team represented USFCMS, FWC-FWRI, New College of Florida, Polk County Schools, and Ocean Optics.
In the end, after some exciting and hard-fought elimination rounds, both the A and B team from the Academy of Environmental Science, in Crystal River, FL, came out victorious, taking the 1st and 2nd place prizes. They will move on to compete in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl Finals in Washington, D.C.