To What Phyla Do Sponges Belong?

By Vickie Chachere


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 15, 2010) One hundred twenty-five high school students representing 25 regions of the country will test their knowledge of ocean organisms, atmospheric science and underwater geology in  the finals of the National Ocean Science Bowl at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science and USF St. Petersburg, April 23-25.


The tournament – among the premier academic competitions in the United States for emerging scientists – will draw teams from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii for three days of learning activities and scholarly sport. The event is sponsored by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that represents 95 of the leading public and private ocean research education institutions, aquaria and industry with the mission to advance research, education and ocean policy.


The goal of the competition is to increase scientific knowledge of the world’s complex ocean systems and introduce the nation’s top high school students to ocean science and the researchers who dedicate their work to developing new knowledge and technologies to understand the oceans and the conservation of marine ecosystems.


“It’s important to get kids at this age interested in ocean sciences and the challenges facing our world’s oceans,” said William Hogarth, Dean of the College of Marine Science. “The oceans are a source of so much economic output – its food, its transportation, its recreation. There are so many issues we have to consider, and this is the generation that is going to be faced with the problems we have yet to solve.”


The competitors have reached the finals having won regional competitions in their home states. More than 300 high schools and 2,000 students competed on a regional level, including Florida’s Spoonbill and Manatee Bowls. Durant High School will represent teams along Florida’s Gulf Coast as winners of the March 2010 Spoonbill Bowl.


The students will spend their first day in St. Petersburg engaged in a series of field trips and hands-on learning experiences. Students will tour Caladesi Island, Ft. DeSoto Park, Weedon Island Mote Marine Lab and Lowry Park Zoo and the Florida Aquarium and technology labs at Raytheon, Ocean Optics, and USFSP Environmental Sciences. A group of students also will spend time aboard the R/V Weatherbird, USF’s high-tech research vessel.


The competition begins at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 24, at USF St. Petersburg’s Science-Technology Building with a round-robin format. The Science-Technology Building is located just west of 1st Street South and USF St. Petersburg’s Harborwalk.


The winners will go on to Sunday’s double-elimination rounds which begin 9 a.m. at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, 100 Eighth Avenue S.E. The winner will be crowned at 2 p.m. in an awards ceremony recognizing the top teams and the coveted James D. Watkins Sportsmanship Award. Last year this award was won by Canterbury Schools of St. Petersburg, who represented the Spoonbill Bowl during 2009 Finals Competition.


The national winners will be awarded a week-long cruise from Boston aboard the 125-foot schooner Westward, operated by the Ocean Classroom Foundation; a $1,000 scholarship to Hood College’s Coastal Studies program and a set of FishFlips fish ID books. In addition, the first-place team’s coach will also receive a one-year membership to the Marine Technology Society.


The second-place team will earn a week-long trip to coastal North Carolina and third-place finishers will spend five days visiting research facilities and exploring Catalina Island in California. Fourth place winners will enjoy a Nikon Coolpix S500 Point & Shoot Digital Camera and Fantasea FS-500 underwater camera housing.



The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.