Jon White – From the President’s Office: 11-19-2018

2018-11-19T16:37:45+00:00 November 19, 2018|

As I attended a tree-planting memorial ceremony at Youngstown State University (YSU) last week, I was reminded of the difference that one person can make. That one person was Dr. Ray Beiersdorfer, professor of geologic and environmental sciences at YSU and creator of the Penguin Bowl, the area’s regional competition for the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB). “Dr. Ray” not only started the Penguin Bowl, he served as regional coordinator for the last 16 years and worked in partnership with the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium to perpetuate a tremendously successful competition every year. He also served as a judge at our national competitions for many years, donning his characteristic Hawaiian shirt and inspiring everyone there with his enthusiasm and knowledge. The NOSB, the Earth science community, and the world at large lost a shining example of the power of goodness and selfless dedication when he passed away on October 11, and the tree that was planted provides a living memorial and tribute to an amazing scientist and educator.

While most of the NOSB regional bowls are hosted in coastal areas, YSU is in “landlocked” Youngstown, Ohio. But you wouldn’t know that from the incredible support the competition receives, including the fact that they typically must limit the number of teams (per school) that compete in the regional bowl, despite there not being an ocean in sight for hundreds of miles. This is all thanks to Dr. Ray’s heroic efforts and the extraordinary support from the leadership at YSU and the Pittsburgh Zoo and Ray’s many cohorts.

When we hold the NOSB Finals competition next year in D.C., we’ll be doing our best to make Dr. Ray, the late Admiral Watkins, and everyone else who has contributed to this program, proud. We’re already looking forward to working with federal agencies and other supporters to do this and to keep the future of the NOSB bright. As many of you know, the NOSB continues to face significant funding challenges, and its viability after 2019 is in doubt. After seeing the impact Dr. Ray has had on the Bowl and so many young men and women through the NOSB over the years, I can’t help but think that if all of us in the ocean science community put in just a fraction of the commitment that Ray made, the NOSB would not only be on solid financial ground but would grow in its reach and to students from areas and circumstances that limit their exposure and opportunities related to ocean science. I can’t thank Dr. Ray enough for his work over the years, and I hope we can all follow in his footsteps – our ocean world would certainly be a better place as a result.

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Collecting DNA isn’t just for detectives at the scene of a crime. It’s now being used by environmentalists to track fish species in the water. Environmental DNA, or eDNA, comes from the cells or waste that fish leave behind while swimming. Researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) take water samples from tributaries, then test them for the presence of a certain species.

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