JDHS wins ocean sciences competition

Local team finishes in top spot statewide for third straight year

Posted: Sunday, February 11, 2001

Juneau-Douglas High School students have won the Alaska ocean sciences bowl for the third year in a row. Dimond High in Anchorage placed second, followed by Seward High.

Juneau's Tsunami team of Wesley Brooks, Cal Craig, Jeff Fanning and Breanne Rohm won one-year tuition waivers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, $250 scholarships and a trip to the national competition in Miami. There they will face 18 other regional winners in a "Jeopardy"-style quiz in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl in early April.

The eight teams at the Alaska competition, on Feb. 2-4 in Seward, were judged on a research paper and oral presentation, as well as a round-robin, double-elimination oral quiz. Alaska is the only region to require a research project, said JDHS oceanography teacher Clay Good, who coaches the Juneau teams.

"We don't think oceanography is being able to answer questions fast," said Susan Sugai, one of the judges and the science director of the Alaska Sea Grant Program. In the real world, oceanographers work with other people to solve problems, she said from her University of Alaska Fairbanks office.

"As far as we're concerned, they're all winners. They did work that was quite sophisticated for undergraduates in college," Sugai said.

This year students were required to come up with a 50-year management plan for a freshwater or saltwater ecosystem.

The Tsunami team, which won the overall competition, placed second in the research category for its project on the Mendenhall Wetlands. They won the knowledge quiz on the strength of Brooks, who Good said gave the team a shot at placing at nationals.

"You just get one of those savants," Good said. "And all you can do is take a beating from them. He's the Carlos Boozer of oceanographics."

"I guess I've got a really strong memory," Brooks said.

His team spent "at least a few hundred hours" preparing for the competition, he said. Brooks enjoyed the project more than the quiz, for the same reason that he likes science: "I just think it's fun to be able to see the concepts coming together in real life. You take knowledge and compile it into something useful, create a product out of it."

Juneau's Typhoon team of Robert Bishop, Alana Hein, Erin Hanson and John Bryant were third in the research category for a project on wastewater treatment in Juneau.

"We wanted to do something that was important to the community but hadn't had a lot of work done," said team member Hanson. "We talked to tons of people. There was really nothing to go on. We had to build from the ground up."

Students toured the plants, talked to government officials and researched different types of disinfectants, Hanson said.

The students also planned for future population growth, recognizing that the current system is near capacity. They recommended that someday North Douglas neighborhoods be connected to city sewer, and a wastewater plant be built there, but only after traffic problems at the Douglas Bridge are fixed. Why? Because the availability of city sewers doubles the population in an area, Hanson said.

"We'd spend weeks when we wouldn't leave the school until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, working on our paper," Hanson said. "There's the graphic arts lab downstairs. It's a tiny little room. We lived there. We probably could have slept there if they let us."

Juneau's Gastineau team of Jessica Page, Adriana Rodriguez, Jolene Rielly and Sarah Bixby won first place in the subcategory of oral presentation for their project on cruise ship waste in Gastineau Channel.

Students researched the topic by talking to Coast Guard officials, cruise ship company representatives and environmentalists. They profited from scientific information in state documents about the wastewater problem.

"I've definitely learned more about our community," said team member Rielly. "I also learned how to study more. It's something that you have to motivate yourself to do."

Besides the science competition, the event included a student art show displayed in the lobby of the Alaska SeaLife Center. JDHS student Eric Tollefson won in the mixed-media category and Hanson was third. Josh Van Fleet placed second in painting and Rebecca Canaday was third.

The National Ocean Sciences Bowl is sponsored in Alaska by the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and the Sea Grant Program with support from government agencies and corporations. The Juneau students were sponsored by Coeur Alaska.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.

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