Shell Oil to co-sponsor ocean science competitions in Texas

February 28, 2013

By Jim Hiney

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Shell Oil Company is bringing its commitment to community, education and the environment to the two 2013 Texas regional competitions of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB®), both sponsored annually by the Texas Sea Grant College Program at Texas A&M University.

The company will provide half of the funding for the Loggerhead Challenge and the Dolphin Challenge, and will recruit volunteer competition officials from within its workforce because the events mirror Shell’s social investment mission, says Shell’s Ian Voparil, who is leading the company’s NOSB efforts.

“When we consider potential partnerships for social investment opportunities, we like to focus on activities that benefit the communities where we work and our employees live; those involving education, especially STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education; and those benefitting the environment. NOSB focuses on all three of these areas and is a natural fit for our organization,” Voparil says.

NOSB is a rigorous high school academic competition requiring students to answer questions about biology, chemistry, physics, geology, geography and the social sciences. It is intended to increase knowledge of the oceans on the part of high school students, their teachers and parents, and to raise the visibility and public understanding of the national investment in ocean-related research.

The Loggerhead Challenge, scheduled Feb. 9 in Port Aransas, is open to teams from west and south Texas. The Dolphin Challenge, scheduled Feb. 23 in Galveston, is open to students in the northern and eastern parts of the state. 
“I am most excited that Shell will participate with us and I look forward to working with their volunteers,” says Terrie Looney, regional coordinator for NOSB in Texas and Texas Sea Grant’s coastal and marine resources agent for Chambers and Jefferson Counties. “Moreover, I believe our NOSB students will benefit greatly from the opportunity to interact with professionals who are currently working in science-related fields that some of these kids aspire to join someday.”

Voparil is not a stranger to NOSB. He volunteered for the Nor’easter Bowl regional competition in Maine in the late 1990s and remembers the caliber of students involved.

“I’ve always been impressed with the kids who participate in NOSB,” he says. “They are hard working, smart, diligent and creative. They are the kind of people that we hope to hire one day and have help us solve the energy challenges of the world.”

NOSB is managed nationally by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, a nonprofit organization representing 94 of the leading public and private ocean research and education institutions, aquaria and industry with the mission to advance research, education and sound ocean policy.


A team from Chaparral Star Academy in Austin (L) competes against Corpus Christi Homeschool Co-op during the 2012 Loggerhead Challenge in Corpus Christi. (Photo by Jim Hiney)


Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.