What's Happening at GCRL

James Franks

20th Anniversary of Hurricane Bowl Offers Students a Chance to be a Scientist

The 20th anniversary of the Hurricane Bowl at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) will offer students a rare hands-on glimpse at what their future may hold in marine science.

Hosted by USM’s Marine Education Center (MEC), the Hurricane Bowl is an annual National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) regional quiz bowl competition where teams of four or five students, ranging from 9th to 12th grade, answer trivia questions and thought-provoking team challenge questions. Southeastern states such as Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Tennessee will be represented at the competition. The event will begin at 8 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 18, at GCRL in Ocean Springs.

For the first time in the competition’s history, MEC plans to charter students from the competition to local barrier islands to experience the subjects they’ve been studying.

“The investment and construction of a new pier by the state of Mississippi through the office of the secretary of state and Department of Marine Research has made Deer Island more accessible for groups,” said MEC Director Chris Snyder. “The island has a rich cultural history. Shorebirds, marsh birds and migrating species traveling the Mississippi Flyway are abundant and easy to observe. This is an island that is so close, students can see it from U.S. 90 and yet most of these students have never even been on a boat.”

Students will board a USM vessel to Deer Island where they will work with University scientists to collect water samples and track birds.

“By participating in this marine science experience, students go away with a greater appreciation for the importance of a coastal preserve, island restoration and ornithology all in a four-hour program that starts with a short boat trip to the island,” said Snyder.

The competition begins at 8 a.m. and will last until one team remains. Twenty-four teams, representing 15 schools from the Gulf Coast region, will take turns answering rapid-fire questions from the world of marine science.

“Each of these schools put a lot of time into the competition,” said Aaron Lamey, Hurricane Bowl regional coordinator. “No one just shows up and hopes for the best; this competition is the culmination of a year’s worth of practice.”

Volunteers who are already in an ocean science career, which helps networking for students interested in the field, staff the Hurricane Bowl.

“Hurricane Bowl provides students an opportunity to interact with people who have been inspired to build their careers in ocean science and to be inspired by them,” said MEC Associate Director Sam Clardy.

Lamey said he’s impressed each year with how passionate the students are about marine science.

“You can tell quickly how much the students want to be involved with marine science,” said Lamey. “Sure they want to win, but they are really just hungry for the knowledge that will get them closer to a career they want to be in.”

At the conclusion of the competition, one team from the tournament will advance to the 2017 National Finals in Corvallis, Oregon.

“The Hurricane Bowl allows students to learn a great deal more about ocean sciences than they would in their regular classroom curriculum and presents an added opportunity for them to interface with other students with similar interests around the five-state region,” said Snyder. “The MEC has been hosting the event since 1998 and we’ve seen students go on to pursue undergraduate and graduate work that has lead to careers in ocean science, a key goal in the NOSB programs.”