Sabertooth salmon and Ketchikan smolts head to Seward for annual ocean science contest

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The Ketchikan High School Sabertooth Salmon hone their quizbowl buzzer fingers alongside guests during NOSB Day in the Kayhi Auditorium on Monday. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

A group of bright young students from Ketchikan travel to Seward to compete in the annual Tsunami Bowl. KRBD spent time with Ketchikan High School’s National Ocean Sciences Bowl teams this week as they prepared for this year’s competition.


Ketchikan High School, better known in town as Kayhi, is sending two teams to this year’s Tsunami Bowl. Kayhi senior Ellie Pickrell is co-captain of the sabertooth salmon, a team made up mostly of older students.

“Ocean Sciences Bowl is a mixed competition,” Pickrell explained. “We write a 15-page research paper, we do a presentation on it, and then we also do the quizbowl part of it, which is a bit like a Jeopardy! style game with questions about the ocean.”

Every year has a theme — this year it’s “Climate Change: Science and Ocean Solutions.”

“We can each choose our own subtopic under that umbrella,” Pickrell said. “So this year the salmon are doing ‘Mitigate Cattle Methane Emissions with Feed Additives.'”

You may have heard of it: Methane, the same gas used in natural gas stoves, is a potent greenhouse gas with 28 times the heat trapping power of carbon dioxide. Nearly 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from cattle – by digesting their food, they release methane into the atmosphere through burping and flatulence.

Pickrell says the sabertooth salmon research paper goes through that question.

“We talk about how this can be reduced by incorporating a species of algae called asparagopsis taxiformis in their diet, and then we discuss how we could implement that locally,” she said. Essentially, if you add a certain type of red algae to livestock feed, livestock are less likely to fart and burp, which means less methane in the atmosphere.

The Saber-Toothed Salmon article argues that this is a dual opportunity: not only would adding seaweed to livestock feed reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it would also boost the demand that could be met by Alaska’s growing mariculture industry.

The particular type of red algae that has been shown to reduce methane emissions grows in warm temperate and tropical waters – so not exactly what you’ll find in Alaska. But there are other red algae containing similar chemicals that To do growing up here – the team says they just haven’t been studied enough.

Kayhi’s young team, the sabertooth smolts, are also looking into mariculture. This team’s paper examines a way to adapt shellfish farms to an increasingly acidic ocean. The Smolts’ co-captain, junior Romel Del Mundo, says carbon dioxide emissions are making the ocean more acidic. This means that there is less calcium in the water, and this is a problem for shellfish.

“From previous research, I knew that shellfish were affected by … the inability to produce their shells due to lack of calcium in the water,” Del Mundo said.

The Saber-Toothed Smolts’ other co-captain, junior Izaak Landis, says the team’s research has found that farming kelp alongside shellfish can help alleviate the problem.

“I think it was actually my Captain Romel here, who was researching these methods of clam farming done by the indigenous people around this area called ‘clam gardens’ and how we can incorporate kelp, which absorbs carbon dioxide from the water,” Landis said. .

Both teams earned high marks on their papers – smolts came in third in the state, followed by salmons in fourth. Now they’re heading to the Alaska SeaLife Center to pitch their ideas.

Saber-Toothed Salmon co-captain Kaydence Dyson says she’s thrilled for her first in-person competition.

“We’re really excited to go to Seward and show off our abilities and show everyone our really cool subject matter,” Dyson said.

Volunteer coach Keenan Sanderson, himself a member of the Ocean Sciences Bowl team in high school, says he hopes the competition instills a love of the place in his students.

“Generally, if you know more about the environment around you, whether it’s trees, plants, fish, or water, or whatever, you’ll generally be a person. happier,” he said.

The teams face off in Seward this week for a chance to qualify for the national competition. Although quizbowl rounds are confidential — all regional competitions use the same questions — team presentations will be streamed live on the Sabertooth Salmon Facebook Page shortly after 11 a.m. Friday. Salmon are scheduled for approximately 11:20 a.m. and smolts are scheduled for approximately 11:45 a.m.

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