Virginia Tech takes fifth in 2013 National Soils Contest

The Virginia Tech Soils Team, which won third place group judging and fifth place overall at the 2013 National Collegiate Soils Contest, were represented by (from left) Ruth Anderson, Rob Ballard, Austin Gardner, Nick Polera, Julia Gillespie, Nicole Erdmann, and Emily Baer. The team was coached by John Galbraith (far right).

The Virginia Tech Soils Team, which won third place group judging and fifth place overall at the 2013 National Collegiate Soils Contest, were represented by (from left) Ruth Anderson, Rob Ballard, Austin Gardner, Nick Polera, Julia Gillespie, Nicole Erdmann, and Emily Baer. The team was coached by John Galbraith (far right).

The 53rd annual National Collegiate Soils Contest was hosted by University of Wisconsin-Platteville on Apr. 21–26, 2013, in Platteville, Wis. It brought over 120 students from 23 schools to the hills of the Driftless Region to study and evaluate representative soils and landscapes of the non-glaciated region. Prior to the two-day contest, teams had an opportunity to visit 22 practice sites, which were located on eight local farms and the banks of the Mississippi River. After learning about the local soils, 91 of the students used their knowledge of ancient lake deposits, windblown silt called loess, redoximorphic features, paleosols, and bedrock contacts to describe the three individual contest pits. The next day, all of the students participated in the group judging portion of the contest with two additional pits.

The results from the first day of the contest identified the top individual judges. The 2013 individual champion was Nick Kozlowski from the University of Rhode Island. The other top five scoring individuals, in order, were: Lori Nussbaum (Purdue), Tyler Witkowski (University of Maryland), Craig Teten, (University Nebraska-Lincoln), and Rachel Owen (Iowa State).

While the individual contest requires that students complete their descriptions without communicating with other judges, the group judging contest on the following day provides an opportunity for all of the members of each team to work together to collectively describe two additional soil pits. The students discussed and debated their observations and completed a single description for each site. With the top cumulative score, the University of Maryland was the 2013 group champion. The other top scoring teams, in order, were: Purdue, Virginia Tech, Auburn, and University of Rhode Island.

After combining the scores from the individual and group judging contests, U. of Maryland was determined to be 2012 overall national champion followed in order by: Iowa State, Purdue, University of Rhode Island, and Virginia Tech. Members of the Virginia Tech soils team are Ruth Anderson, Emily Baer, Rob Ballard, Nicole Erdmann, Julia Gillespie, Nick Polera, and Austin Gardner. Coached by John Galbraith and assisted by Austin Gardner, this was the seventh out of the last eight contests when Virginia Tech finished in the top five in either the group, individual, or overall contest.

More information on the 2012 National Collegiate Soils Contest is available at national.soiljudging.wvu.edu. The 2013 Southeast Region Collegiate Soils Contest will be hosted by the Tennessee Tech in October, and the top six teams will advance to the national contest hosted by Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Penn., in April 2014.

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