Agricultural Sciences

Penn State places 6th in U.S. National Collegiate Soil Judging Contest

The Penn State Soil Judging Team: (from left) Melissa Pierce, adviser Patrick Drohan, April Doroski, Mitch Fleming, Curtis Kennedy, Nancy Kammerer, assistant coach Cody Fink, Sara Jones, and (reclined) Jacob Gogno. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A Penn State student team recently placed sixth at the National Collegiate Soil Judging Contest in Wisconsin.

Comprised of seven students from the College of Agricultural Sciences, the soil judging team amassed 2,630 points in the event held April 20-27 at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville.

The University of Maryland, coached by Penn State alumnus Brian Needelman, captured first place with 2,738 points.

Competing in the contest for Penn State were Melissa Pierce, a senior environmental resource management major from Mercersburg; Nancy Kammerer, a sophomore agroecology major from Gettysburg; Sara Jones, a senior environmental resource management major from Montrose; April Doroski, a senior environmental resource management major from Wyncote; Jacob Gogno, a senior environmental resource management major from Pottsville; Mitch Fleming, a senior agricultural science major from Sharpsville; and Curtis Kennedy, a senior environmental resource management major from State College.

In the individual component of the contest, Doroski placed seventh, Kammerer 14th, Jones 45th and Fleming 59th. Penn State finished 11th in the Group Judging component. Ninety students competed in the individual component and 115 competed in Group Judging.

"The national contest allows students to practice describing and interpreting soils in an environment very different from their home school," said team adviser Patrick Drohan, assistant professor of pedology. "At the recent contest, students were directed to describe soils formed in a variety of parent materials in close proximity to the Mississippi River."

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 country.

Twenty-three teams competed this year. Representatives of South Korea and Australia also visited the contest to better understand its organization. There are plans to organize an International Contest at the 2014 World Soil Congress in Seoul, South Korea, Drohan explained.

"The team performed extremely well, especially given the new environment they were not familiar with," he said. "This is especially significant since five of them are very new to soil science. They will do very well when entering the profession or going on to graduate school."

Traveling to Wisconsin to take part in the national competition was a great experience, but costly, Drohan pointed out. He urged anyone interested in supporting the team in future years to contribute to the squad's travel fund here.

More information about the team and the 50-plus-year history of soil judging at Penn State is available online.

Last Updated May 13, 2013