About the Blue Crab Bowl

The National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB®) was launched in 1998 — the International Year of the Ocean — by the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education. Managed by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership since 2007, NOSB continues its important objectives in creating an ocean-literate society. NOSB serves to generate student interest and excitement about science and the oceans, and provides a venue for students to excel and earn regional and national recognition. Additionally, it gives young people a chance to examine marine science as a field of study and possible career path. Nation-wide, there are now 25 competition regions. A variety of prizes for students and coaches are awarded at both the regional and national bowls.

The Blue Crab Bowl (BCB) was among the inaugural NOSB contests in 1998. Up to sixteen Virginia teams meet each year, alternating between regional co-hosts Old Dominion University (even years) and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (odd years). The winners of the Blue Crab Bowl go on to represent Virginia in the NOSB national finals generally held at one of the regional competition host sites.

Institutions responsible for the Blue Crab Bowl’s success include Old Dominion University (ODU) and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). Financial support comes from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership and other institutions and agencies.  More information about our sponsors is under the Sponsors tab on this page.

How does the competition work?
Designed to inspire and challenge high school students, the Blue Crab Bowl tests competitors' knowledge of the marine sciences. Each match pits two teams of four students in an academic quiz-bowl format. Competitors use a buzzer system to respond to rapid-fire multiple choice and short answer questions read by a Moderator. And, teams work collectively to produce written answers to complex analytical questions. Points are earned from three types of questions: toss-up questions, worth four points; bonus questions, worth 6 points; and team challenge questions, worth up to 20 points.

Each contest is managed by a team of Match Officials drawn from the professional staffs of ODU, VIMS and affiliate institutions. The Chief Rules Judge and Chief Science Judge handle challenges if they arise; specialists grade the answers to written questions. Judges' rulings on answer acceptability are final.

Up to sixteen teams compete in round-robin matches by division, then the top four teams are determined during an elimination tournaments in the afternoon. For full details, see Game in a Crab Shell and the NOSB official rules. And, check out a video with interviews of past NOSB competition participants.

Who else can attend?  Spectator Guidelines
While classmates, teachers and parents are encouraged to support their school team, there are space limitations in some competition venues and activities*. Space permitting, spectators are welcome in competition rooms, but Blue Crab Bowl guidelines apply and spectators may not…

  • enter or leave a room during a match;
  • take pictures, notes or audio recordings in competition rooms;
  • communicate with contestants during matches;
  • use cell phones or other electronic messaging devices; or
  • talk in the halls outside competition rooms during matches.
Please respect the integrity of the competition and the considerable effort made by all teams and officials in preparing for this event.

See the NOSB rules for further details on competing teams and supporters in attendance at official bowl events.

*Note that the BCB field trip on Friday is an award designed for the competing teams, in recognition of their efforts in preparing for competition.  Additional supporters may attend on a space-available basis and will be responsible for any fees associated with activities.


Blue Crab Bowl is proud to be the Virginia Regional competition of the NOSB since the program's inception in 1998. Nearly 350 teams have competed — bringing together 1,700 students and dozens of coaches from over 50 different high schools and educational institutions from all corners of Virginia.

Visit our archives for lists of past competitors and each year's winning team.

Who was involved in the most recent Bowl?  Check out the event program.

Archives: winners 1998 to present.

Where are you now?
The Blue Crab Bowl and NOSB would like to know if students who have participated in past bowl competitions have benefited from the experience, gone on to higher education or careers in ocean sciences. Just send us a note!

If you participated in a past Blue Crab Bowl, let us know what you're up to now. If you spot the name or a photo of a classmate, former student or child in our archive files, let them know we'd like to reconnect with them!

The Blue Crab Bowl wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of national, regional and local sponsors. Donations support the planning and implementation of the competition, as well as event awards for participating teams.

Want to help support this exciting science event? 
Please, contact the Blue Crab Bowl Coordinators.  We can use:

  • financial donations
  • services and products for event operations
  • services and products for participant prizes
  • volunteers

Sponsors and supporters for each year are acknowledged in the event program, in press releases to Virginia media, and on our Bowl website.

NOSB SPONSORS - For a list of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership's national sponsors, visit the NOSB website at www.nosb.org/.

Our thanks to the institutions, organizations and businesses who contributed to prizes for Bowl participants or provided support for Bowl operations.

FAST Facts

Virtual Competition
February 11-12, 2022

National Ocean Sciences Bowl Finals
May 14-15, 2022 (Science Expert Briefing May 7)
Location: Virtual