Designed to inspire and challenge high school students, Virginia’s Blue Crab Bowl (BCB) appears to be working as planned. The annual marine science quiz competition not only gives Virginia’s students the chance to show off their knowledge of oceanography, geology, and biology, it also has been shown to influence students’ future careers.
According to the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB), 41% of students who participate in these competitions say they intend to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM. The BCB estimates that 574 students from Virginia targeted STEM fields and that the competition influenced their education and career paths.
Coaches of the competition can name dozens of past participants that have gone on to pursue marine-related degrees and careers. Some of these students, like four-time competitor Christine Chesley, were clearly influenced by the BCB.
“BCB changed me into a person interested in marine science and geology,” says Chesley. Chelsey studied math and geology at the University of Miami and intends to get a Ph.D. in marine geology.
Three years participating in the BCB strengthened Seth Theuerkauf’s decision to double major in biology and environmental science. It also influenced his college choice: “The proximity of William and Mary to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS)… was a deciding factor.” Theuerkauf plans to get a Ph.D. and conduct oyster restoration research, a field he started exploring through part-time work at VIMS.
In other cases, the impact of BCB experience had a more subtle effect. Jack Hall, studying electrical engineering and two-time BCB competitor, says he “loved the whole thing” but never considered whether BCB affected his college decisions.
“Then again, I’m at the Coast Guard Academy, which is about as ocean-related as you can get,” he says.
Organized by Old Dominion University and Virginia Institute of Marine Science education staff affiliated with Virginia Sea Grant, the BCB has been an annual event since 1998. In each year of this highly successful long-term collaboration, over 70 ODU and VIMS faculty, students, and staff volunteer to officiate at the BCB competition. Assisting in this opportunity for potential young scientists is an investment in potential marine science colleagues of the future.