Five Clay County students made waves this past weekend at a regional marine biology competition, and while they didn’t bring home the gold, they held their own against two of the toughest schools …
Five Clay County students made waves this past weekend at a regional marine biology competition, and while they didn’t bring home the gold, they held their own against two of the toughest schools from East Florida.
On Feb. 23, five Fleming Island High students and their coach traveled over five hours south to Fort Pierce where they competed against four other schools in the east coast regional National Oceanic Sciences Bowl competition. Through a series of quiz-bowl trivia questions followed by a group challenge where each team is given a problem to work through together, the FIHS team lost only by one question to two of the toughest competitors in the bowl.
“It went pretty well, but unfortunately, we were put into a division with last year’s national champions and a magnet school for marine science, so we weren’t so lucky with our placing,” FIHS senior Mackenzie Daniels, 17, said.
According to the team coach and FIHS biology teacher, Sarah Pederson, though, given the circumstances, losing by just one question to two of the toughest competitors is a win in their book. While the competition might not have gone as well as the team would have liked, the five competing students, FIHS Junior Jordan Detwiler, 17, Junior Paul McIntyre, 16, Junior Michael Mendez, 17, Senior Noah Kellogg, 18, and Daniels all left one step closer to their future in science.
“All of these kids have futures in science and competing in things like this, taking part in these kinds of extracurricular activities, it all serves to get them closer to making that happen,” Pederson said.
For Daniels, oceanic science is much more than an extracurricular activity – it’s where her future career lies. Specifically, Daniels plans to become a marine veterinarian where she can not only help the life that lives under the sea but explore one of earth’s last bastions of mystery. With oceans spanning roughly 71 percent of the planet, with only 1 percent of those oceans explored, Daniels is fascinated with the idea that there is still so much more to learn about these bodies of water.
She’s so fascinated, in fact, that her teammates poke friendly fun at her for being so intrigued by hydrothermal vents. According to Daniels, her hydrothermal vent fascination stems from the fact that 50 years ago, scientists didn’t know they existed.
“I think it’s really cool to grow up in a time where there is still earth to explore,” Daniels said.
While Pederson is the team coach, she shies away from taking any credit in the team’s creation or achievements. According to Pederson, the team is student-led. In fact, it was started by a past student who, after becoming a student at FIHS, inquired about starting a National Oceanic Sciences Bowl team with Pederson. This student was a part of one of these teams at her previous school and hoped to see one started at her new school, FIHS.
While Pederson’s background isn’t necessarily marine biology, she was happy to serve as the coach for the FIHS team and now, years later, she still serves in that position today.
“These kinds of things make high school memorable,” Pederson said. “If you can go out and be a part of something bigger, that’s so important to let that happen. That will stick with these kids.”
As two of these students graduate from high school, and as more likely join the team next year, Pederson said the bond created between the team is will not be a forgotten.
“Our team is a family,” Pederson said. “It’s a family of amazing, creative, intelligent kids who want to make the world better by what they choose to do in the future and I’ll always support them in that.”