Ohio State Soil Judging Team Competes in Northeast Regional Competition

Oct. 17, 2016
Members of The Ohio State Soil Judging Team recently competed in the Northeast Regional Collegiate Soils Contest.
The Ohio State Soil Judging Team competed in the Northeast Regional Collegiate Soils Contest (October 5-7, 2016) hosted by Pennsylvania State University and held in the vicinity of State College, PA.  
Building on last year’s success, there was record enthusiasm for soil judging this year, and Ohio State was able to take a large team of 12 students to Pennsylvania—two returning and 10 new. The Buckeyes entered three teams of four among a field of 21 from nine universities: Delaware Valley College, Pennsylvania State University, University of Rhode Island, University of Maryland, Wilmington College of Ohio, Bloomsburg University, West Chester University, Richard Stockton College, and The Ohio State University.  The Northeast Region had 88 total individual soil judgers—its largest turnout on record which speaks to the growing popularity of this collegiate sport and the position it holds as a premier outdoor learning laboratory. 
Soil Judging competitions consist of an individual and team contest with the scores from both portions compiled into an overall school ranking.  Ohio State’s 12 School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) undergraduate students (Kylie Seese, Grant Cory, Denise McDonough, Yuchen Liu, Anna Crouser, Mary Kay Klenkar, Milan Pozderac, Eric Hanes, Tyler Morlock, Yi Zhou, Kevin Ellis, Cat Bagent) each competed in the individual competition where contestants examined soils at three soil pits along a toposequence formed in colluvium over residuum, that included soils with saprolite, argillic horizons, and a lithic contact. 
Four students in a limestone residual soil                           Students have fun soil judging.
next to a cornfield.

Students making soil judgments.                                      Coach Kaitlyn Benson sharing a teaching moment with Grant Cory.
Kylie Seese (senior Environmental Science major specializing in Soil Resources and Environmental Sustainability) took home 4th place individual honors and a trophy.  The group portion of the contest featured soils at two pits: one formed in alluvial deposits over colluvium and the other in residual shale soils.  All three Buckeye teams did an outstanding job working together and placed in the top 10 with one team placing 4th and missing the 3rd place trophy by a mere two points (scores range from 450 to 750).  
Point differences at this year’s contest were the closest on record, and unfortunately, the combined team and individual scores were not enough to propel the Buckeyes into the top 4 overall school rankings thereby qualifying them for Nationals. The schools that qualified and will represent the Northeast Region at the contest hosted by Northern Illinois University in April are: Bloomsburg University, University of Maryland, University of Rhode Island, and Delaware Valley College.

Kylie Seese (senior soil resources major) with her 4th place individual trophy surrounded by her coaches.
Dr. Brian Slater along with SENR graduate students, Matthew Bright (Ph.D. advisor—Richard Dick), Kaitlyn Benson (M.S. advisor—Nick Basta), and Horticulture and Crop Science graduate student Jaclyn Fiola (Ph.D. advisor—Imed Dami) served as the team’s coaches.
School of Environment and Natural Resources Professor Brian Slater teaching students the intricacies of a forest soil. 
Soil judging provides students with an unparalleled opportunity to immerse themselves in the complexities of soil in the field in different areas of the country.  During the two days prior to the contest, all teams practiced at 10 pits dug exclusively for the contest at four different sites in both agricultural and forest/mountain soils across the ridge and valley system surrounding State College. Soil judging teaches students to describe the characteristics of the various layers that have developed in the soil, the ability of the soil to transmit and retain water to support roots, the geological parent materials from which the soil has formed, before determining site characteristics, taxonomically classifying the soil, and finally making interpretations about the suitability of the soil for potential land uses such as establishing a septic tank or road on the site.  Many students describe their soil judging experiences as the highlight of their undergraduate careers and point to it as the deciding factor in their decision to pursue a career in soil science.  In addition to the pre-competition practice, Ohio State’s soil judgers attended 5 practices occurring weekly prior to leaving for Pennsylvania—further testimony to their dedication and skill.  Five students will be eligible to return next year and are very excited to build on their current success in next fall’s regional competition.  Please take a moment to congratulate the soil judging team on their accomplishments. 
Contributing author and source: Matthew Bright
Photos courtesy of Jaclyn Fiola.
Lead photo caption:  Members of The Ohio State Soil Judging Team.  Back row L to R: Grant Cory, Milan Pozderac, Eric Hanes, Tyler Morlock, Kevin Ellis, Jaclyn Fiola (coach), Matthew Bright (coach). Middle row L to R—Cat Bagent, Denise McDonough, Kaitlyn Benson (coach), Mary Kay Klenkar, Yi Zhou, Yuchen Liu. Front row reclining L to R—Anna Crouser, Kylie Seese.