Soil Judging Team takes 17th at 2015 Nationals

Posted: October 21, 2015

Between April 19th and 24th 22 schools from across the U.S. competed at the 2015 National Collegiate Judging Contest hosted by Univ. Arkansas, Monticello, AR.
L-R: Tom Heron, Nicole Kubiczki, Nancy Kammerer, Bill Wall, Matt Dilger, John Dawyot, Kaitlyn Benson, Devon Turner.

L-R: Tom Heron, Nicole Kubiczki, Nancy Kammerer, Bill Wall, Matt Dilger, John Dawyot, Kaitlyn Benson, Devon Turner.

Between April 19th and 24th eight students from Penn State competed at the 2015 National Collegiate Soil Judging Contest hosted by University of Arkansas, Monticello, AR. The contest was held around Monticello in the vicinity of the ancestral Mississippi and Arkansas River floodplains.

The contest is an annual event, which allows students to practice describing and interpreting soils and landscapes against different schools from around the country. The top schools from each regional, Fall competition qualify for the National event held the following Spring. This year, students at the National contest practiced describing soils formed in Late Pleistocene loess deposits and Holocene terrace and floodplain deposits. Auburn Univ. took first, West Virginia Univ. 2md, and Purdue Univ. third.

Penn State's team consisted of: Kaitlyn Benson (Env. Res. Mgmt. major), John Dawyot (Env. Res. Mgmt.), Matt Dilger (Env. Res. Mgmt.), Thom Heron (BioRenewable Systems), Nancy Kammerer (Agroecology), Nicole Kubiczki (Env. Res. Mgmt.), Devon Turner (Env. Res. Mgmt.), and Bill Wall (Env. Res. Mgmt.).

Penn State finished 2nd overall as a team and 4th in Group judging missing third by three points and second by five points.

Sixty-nine students competed in the contest’s individual component. Devon Turner finished 16th, Nicole Kubiczki 50th, Nancy Kammerer 53rd, and Kaitlyn Benson took 56th. Coach Patrick Drohan, Associate Professor of Pedology, said “Many of the soils and landscapes were new to the students. There were some tough calls the students had to make in the contest that really affected the score on the cards...e.g. a fragipan or lack of one." 

The team will attend Regionals in the Fall at Ohio State (~Oct. 16th). Traveling to contests is a great experience for the students, but costly, Drohan pointed out. He urged anyone interested in supporting the team to contribute to the squad's travel fund here:

Penn State teams have participated in national and regional soil-judging competitions since the 1950s, Drohan noted. The contest is part of the Soil Science Society of America's commitment to soils education and provides participating students with an opportunity to see new soils and to test their skills against peers from across the region.

For more information about the team, and the 60 year+ history of Soil Judging at Penn State, see: