Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 1:36 PM on Wednesday, March 14, 2012

High school teams make big splash in science bowl

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Eight Homer High School students dove into the Tsunami Bowl, the Alaska regional competition for the National Ocean Science Bowl, held in Seward March 2-4. They scored impressive results and caught the attention of 19 other teams from around the state.

Competing as the "Twilight Zone" team were team captain Traven Apiki, Katherine Dolma, Axel Gillam and John Walsworth. The "Abyssmal Guessers" team was comprised of team captain Sabina Kryshak-Karwowski, Dylan Faulkner, Adi Davis and Joshua Vantrease. Coaching the two Homer teams were Kris Holdereid, director of the Kasitsna Bay Laboratory; Barbi Failor, fishery biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game; and Brenda Dolma, former science teacher with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

Science bowls in other regions focus on quiz competition, but Alaska's science bowl is a bit more involved.

"Alaska said they want their kids to do more on research because that's what the reality is of science," said Holderied. "Kids have to do a complete research project and do a paper on it and do a presentation."

Team "Twilight Zone" placed third in the research paper, sixth in oral presentation and fourth in total project points. The team placed third in the quiz portion of the bowl, for an overall third place. The "Abyssmal Guessers" competed only in the quiz portion and still secured 13th place overall.

First place went to Juneau-Douglas High School's "Pelagic Magic" team, with Cordova High School's "Nefarious Dawgsharks" in second place.

"For them to come in and do this well is unprecedented," said Holderied of the Homer teams. "Other teams were saying things like, 'Where did you guys come from?' ... I was incredibly proud of them, incredibly proud of how relaxed and what sportsmanship they had."

Research projects had to be on a topic related to ecosystem-based management of an Alaska fishery. The Twilight Zone team chose restoration of the herring fishery in Kachemak Bay for their project.

"They had to look at all the different considerations. What might be the cause of the fishery's decline? What food do they need? What habitat? There used to be a huge fishery here, but not anymore. What's causing that? Why might we want herring back? What's the economic benefit?" said Holderied.

She praised Walsworth for his introduction of the oral presentation referencing herring's place in the food chain.

"Herring are the five-hour energy drink of the ocean," said Walsworth.

The Twilight Zone also received recognition for the use of the presentation software Prezi.

"They got extra points because they did something creative. Is it a surprise a Homer team does something creative? No," said Holderied, who characterized coaching the teams as "the best part of my day. They were excited, enthusiastic. They had more energy than can be imagined."

Holderied credited Dolma for encouraging Homer's participation in the science bowl and praised Homer's science community for its support.

"It took a science village to send a team to Seward," said Holderied, noting help from Carmen Field, Lisa Matlock, Katie Bursch and "various and sundry scientists who would do mini talks for us. It was the science community coming together and saying, 'OK, let's help these kids.'"