Ketchikan Ocean Sciences Bowl Team members compete

Ketchikan Ocean Sciences Bowl Team members compete in a quiz bowl at the end of their research presentations at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center on Thursday. Staff photo by Christopher Mullen

The Ketchikan National Ocean Sciences Bowl team simulated their competition style for the more than 75 people who attended a public event at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center on Thursday evening. The team also shared what they've learned with peers during Ketchikan High School's fourth annual NOSB Day in the Kayhi auditorium during all class periods Thursday.
Next week, 16 students, two coaches and a chaperone will travel to Seward for the 2023 Alaska Tsunami Bowl sponsored by the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. The competition will run from March 3 to March 5 at Seward High School, coaches said.
During the statewide showdown, NOSB teams will present research papers and compete in a buzzer-style quiz bowl.
The Ketchikan team competes between three teams of five students: The Saber-Toothed Salmon, Saber-Toothed Smolts and Saber-Toothed Fry. Ten total teams of students will participate in the Seward competition this year.
At the Discovery Center event on Thursday evening, the Saber-Toothed Smolts first presented research about their chosen topic, "Expanding Mariculture Around Sea Cucumbers in Alaska."
The group proposed rearing sea cucumbers in a hatchery and raising them to maturity in a land-based "setting tank" before moving the sea cucumbers into an "ocean-based mariculture facility."
In an essay presenting their research, the Smolts team argued that "areas like Blank Inlet, Moser Bay, Hump Island and Back Island close to Ketchikan (Southeast Alaska) would be prime for sea cucumber mariculture, having ample land that could have well over one thousand sea cucumbers in a single harvest."
Students cited a 2019 study from the McDowell Group that measures feasibility for a hypothetical sea cucumber aquaculture facility in Alaska.
Audience members asked questions following the presentation. One attendee asked about existing aquaculture projects for sea cucumber species in Asian countries.
"In Asia they do have a lot of farms and fun fact is that one of the ways they feed them is through collecting or making a paste from freshly caught plankton from the local waters," student Rickey Baum responded. "That's how you would feed them."
During the Saber-Toothed Salmon presentation, team members proposed a mariculture stock enhancement project for red king crab in the Bering Sea. Students posited that cultivating red king crab in hatcheries would offer a stable supply to the industry, which has seen and contributed to multiple population crashes in recent decades.
"The cultivation and continued expansion of red king crab mariculture presents a unique opportunity for Alaska to rehabilitate its overfished population and address the growing global demand for the product," students wrote in their report.
One audience member asked the team whether they would continue their mariculture project if the red king crab population in the Bering Sea rebounded on its own.
Student Franchezca Mae Correa responded: "I think we could downsize but not fully stop functioning. There's always going to be a larger market looking for these crabs, it's going to be fished and sold as product. I guess the only real concern would be the carrying capacity of the environment in the place."
The group acknowledged the risks of their proposed mariculture projects, such as limiting ecosystem biodiversity by creating a large red king crab population that would prey on other species, and interfering with genetic diversity by introducing cultured crabs that would breed with the wild Bering Sea population.
The Saber-Toothed Fry did not have time to complete a research presentation this year and will participate in only the quiz bowl portion of the competition.
Students also simulated the quiz bowl portion of the competition on Thursday evening.
Bonus and short-answer questions spanned the common name of the Sebastes genus (rockfish) and which region produces the most hatchery fish annually in Alaska (Prince William Sound).
In Seward this week students will present research projects on Friday and compete in a round-robin quiz bowl on Saturday. A combination of the round-robin and research project scores will seed all teams for a championship bracket on Sunday.
The six teams that completed research projects and are eligible for the championship bracket in Seward at the Tsunami Bowl this year are: Saber-Toothed Salmon, Saber-Toothed Smolts, Juneau A team, Juneau B team, Dimond A team, Bartlett A team, according to Ketchikan NOSB co-coach Keenan Sanderson.