PhotosyntheSistahs earn top spots at Alaska’s Tsunami Bowl

From left, Mia Siebenmorgen-Cresswell, Maya Russin, Madelyn Roemhildt, Helen Laird, and MiKita DeCook during the Tsunami Bowl Competition in Seward in February. (Photo by Lauren Bien/for The Cordova Times)

By Lauren Bien

For The Cordova Times

Cordova’s National Ocean Sciences Bowl team, the PhotosyntheSistahs, are returning to Cordova with titles, trophies and a major sense of accomplishment after the Tsunami Bowl.

The Tsunami Bowl is Alaska’s regional competition of the nationwide event, held in Seward each February.

Teams from around the state compete in all-things-ocean-sciences via a research project and a buzzer-style competition.

The PhotosyntheSistahs, Helen Laird, MiKita DeCook, Maya Russin, Mia Siebenmorgen-Cresswell and Madelyn Roemhildt, represented Cordova this year.


The Tsunami Bowl requires teams to complete a research project on a predetermined topic comprised of a 15-page paper and 15-minute oral presentation.

The team worked on their paper for months, reading scientific literature, writing drafts, and spending late nights making edits, then submitted it to a judging team of UAF researchers in early December.

The team then immediately got to work on their oral presentation which they presented on the first day of competition to a panel of judges and their peers. The PhotosyntheSistahs dominated the project portion of the competition with their project, The Effects of Ocean Acidification on the Copper River Sockeye Fishery. Their research paper was ranked second in the state, their oral presentation was ranked first in the state, and combined, the PhotosyntheSistah’s project was ranked the very best in the state, winning them Overall Best Project.

First and second place Tsunami Bowl trophies and medals rest on the Prince William Sound Science Center dock in Cordova after a weekend of competition in Seward this February. Cordova’s PhotosyntheSistahs project, “The Effects of Ocean Acidification on the Copper River Sockeye Fishery”, won Overall Best Project while their research paper came in second place and their oral presentation came in first place. (Photo by Lauren Bien/for The Cordova Times)

Once the projects were finished and scored, the fast-paced buzzer rounds began. The PhotosyntheSistahs won every one of their round-robin matches and were seeded in first place as they entered the final day of competition. The team was an absolute force to be reckoned with during buzzer-rounds again on the final day and even won a match with a last-second “Hail-Mary” interrupt play. Their tenacity on the buzzers and breadth of knowledge earned them a spot in the final round against Ketchikan High School. The two all-female teams went head-to-head in the auditorium in front of 150 people. After a hard-fought match, the PhotosyntheSistahs took second place!

The dedication and determination shown by this team earned them a spot as one of the top teams in the state. Congratulations, PhotosyntheSistahs!

Cordova’s PhotosyntheSistahs team. Back Row, from left: Assistant Coach John Williams, MiKita DeCook, Maya Russin, and Coach Lauren Bien. Front Row, from left: Madelyn Roemhildt, Mia Siebenmorgen-Cresswell, and Helen Laird. (Photo by Sarah Spanos/for the Tsunami Bowl)

Lauren Bien is the Prince William Sound Science Center education director and coach of the PhotsyntheSistahs.