Science for Everyone

2015 Nor'easter Bowl

On Saturday February 7, 2015, Cait Cleaver and I drove up to The University of Maine campus to attend the Nor'easter Bowl, the regional ocean science competition of the National Ocean Science Bowl (NOSB) for Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont schools. We were there to watch students compete and we also set up a table to share information about the Marine Ecology ISLE program happening this summer on Hurricane. Because the Nor'easter bowl brings students from 3 states together, The University of Maine, University of New England, and University of New Hampshire's marine science departments rotate hosting the event each year. This year nearly 100 students on 17 teams from Belfast, Poland, Windham, Falmouth, York, Orono, and other schools attended the event. Each team consists of 4-5 students (teams can have an alternate), one of whom is designated as team captain, and is in charge of answering for the team in the case of short answer questions. New to the event this year were some familiar faces to us! Coastal Studies for Girls, including several girls who were out on Hurricane this past summer, put together a team and made it to the quarter finals! 

How exactly do students compete in the Nor'easter bowl? The morning competition consisted of several round-robin style tournament rounds, where every team faced each other and collected points which would help dictate their rank and competitors for the single elimination rounds in the afternoon. Each round followed the same format, starting with six minutes of "toss up" multiple choice questions, each of which had an attached bonus short answer question for the team who answered the toss up question correctly. This was followed by a two separate three-to-five minute written question sheets where the full team could work together to submit one collective answer sheet. The round ended with a second bout of six-minute toss up questions, and the team with the most points at the end won.

The competition was heated and the questions were hard. Questions ranged from ocean chemistry to geography to historic oil spills to books written by Rachel Carson. It was fun as an audience member to see how much of my marine education I remembered (or forgot in the case of physical oceanography...) and I was continually impressed by how quickly these students correctly answered questions I was struggling to remember. There is also a some great strategy to the rounds-- because they are timed, at the very end of the round some teams opted to buzz in and try to answer a question that hadn't been fully asked yet for a 25% chance of guessing the right answer and snagging some last-minute points. Other teams confidently buzzed in before all of the answers were given, to get that extra edge on their opponents. The winning team (ConVal Regional High School, Peterborough, NH) is headed up to the National Ocean Science Bowl, held this year in Ocean Springs, Mississippi in April. The theme for the national competition this year is "the science of oil in the ocean." You can read a little bit more about this event and see a photo of the winning team by reading this article by the Bangor Daily News.

Hurricane Island is excited to help start a midcoast Maine team together to compete in next year's event, which will take place at the University of New England. If you want to join our team, or know of a good student let us know! (email

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