By Greg Alder
For the 11th straight year La Jolla High School won the Grunion Bowl, a competition that tests students’ knowledge about the ocean sciences. Soon they’ll heade to Texas for the finals of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.
The Grunion Bowl is one of 25 regional competitions, and the winner of each goes to the national finals held April 29 - May 1 at Texas A&M University in Galveston.
The winning team from La Jolla High is comprised of Ian Fong (captain), Nicole Jarvis, Varun Rau, Leslie Timms and Amanda Martin. Honors Marine Science and Biology teacher Dave James is the coach.
Teams play against each other by buzzing in to answer multiple choice questions as well as longer bonus questions.
“There are questions you won’t find in any textbook like, ‘How many pounds of sardine were caught last year?’” said James.
On Feb. 26 at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Vikings topped 10 other schools in the competition sponsored by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization. There are 300 schools participating in the program, which “provides a forum for talented students to test their knowledge of the marine sciences including biology, chemistry, physics, and geology,” as stated on the organization’s website.
Now, in preparation for the finals the team is meeting twice a week before school at 6:30 a.m., and James has given each team member copies of an extra textbook and links to useful websites. He also hands out readings and assigns research projects.
The team’s hard work certainly paid dividends last year when they took fourth place at the national finals, their highest placing ever. And with four out of the five players from last year’s team returning this year, James feels confident in their chances to do even better.
“If all goes right, we could conceivably come in first place,” he said.
Teams that finish in the top three receive award trips to places as exotic as the Smithsonian Tropical Research Center in Panama (2009’s first place award). But every team that makes it to the finals in Texas will be able to go on tours with naturalists and interact with marine biologists and attend a career fair.
NOSB’s mission is to interest students in pursuing a college degree and future career in the ocean sciences. And it seems to be working.
“NOSB has definitely encouraged me to consider marine biology as a career,” said Viking team member Varun Rau.