SSC students taking part in marine science bowl
ANN ARBOR — A team of Standish-Sterling Central High School students will be heading downstate this weekend to take part in the annual Great Lakes Bowl, a quiz event that focuses on questions about marine and freshwater systems and biology.
Sixteen teams from across the state will compete in Ann Arbor Saturday, Feb. 4 for prizes and the chance to go on to a national ocean sciences bowl in Baltimore on April 19.
Standish-Sterling’s academic trivia team consists of Gabriel Bowerson, Sebastian Bowerson, Jonah LaBeau, Jorden LaRose, Jacob Oliver, Elizabeth Poirer, and Jacob Wright. It was organized by Jennifer Gehlmann, media specialist at the school.
Gabriel Bowerson, Oliver, and Poirer are all 10th grade members of the team. LaBeau and LaRose represent the 11th grade, and Sebastian Bowerson and Oliver represent the 12th grade.
Gehlmann said the students meet once or twice a week before school to practice, and take the strictest science courses available at the school. While the team is open to any SSC student, they must be able to answer the most questions correctly to join the team, she said.
Sander Robinson, an environmental scientist and coordinator for the Great Lakes Bowl, said the event started in 1998 to help promote oceanography, biology, and marine studies to students in the state, and across the nation in the broader program.
“At first it was just local teams around Ann Arbor and Southeast Michigan,” Robinson said. Since then, an expanded advertising campaign to schools has seen participants from across both peninsulas.
Gehlmann said Standish-Sterling began taking part in the bowl in 2008, when a biology teacher, Gary Hadden, learned about it at a conference for academic teams.
“Several of this year’s students are interested in ocean science careers, so this is a great opportunity for them to see what they know and talk with people who are working in the field,” Gehlmann said.
The bowl is split into two segments: a multiple choice “quick answer” portion where teams must buzz in to answer more questions than their opponents, and a long-form written answer portion.
Kristin Kracke, spokesperson with the national bowl, said teams get about 20 minutes to formulate their written responses. The multiple-choice segment, she said, is about five minutes long.
Both segments span the breadth of scientific research, from sea life to chemistry to math, regarding oceans and freshwater lakes, rivers, and other water systems.
“Those students are really smart,” Kracke said. “They’re judged in the competition by people who have been in these fields for 15-20 years, and (the students) can outthink them.”
The first-place team wins a half-day trip aboard a research vessel on the Great Lakes, Robinson said, as well as an all-expense-paid trip to Baltimore for the national bowl. The second-, third- and fourth-place teams will earn cash prizes to purchase new science equipment for their schools.
Robinson has an additional prize for the last place team, dubbed the quagga mussel award for the invasive species in the Great Lakes.
“It’s a recently implemented award for last place, which is typically a new team,” Robinson said. “Last year it was a buzzer system to help them practice.”
Robinson said the top three winners of the national competition in Baltimore will go on educational trips. He said second- and third-place finishers usually win trips within the U.S., visiting research facilities, maritime museums, or going on coastal and freshwater research vessels to learn how the vessels operate, and how the researchers do their work.
The first-place prize is usually an international research trip beyond American waters, Robinson said; or otherwise, visits to research facilities in other nations in Central or South America.
As far as the Great Lakes Bowl is concerned, Robinson said the Dexter High School team has taken first place in most of the past events, owing in part to the school having a science teacher functioning as a dedicated oceanography coach. Robinson added he would consider it “nice” to see another school come out on top in this year’s competition.