Sunday, September 18, 2016

2016 Region V Soil Judging - Rosemount Research and Outreach Center

On Saturday, September 17th, 14 members of the University of Minnesota Soil Judging team travelled to the Rosemount Research and Outreach Center in Rosemount, MN for some extracurriculars. The students described soils on a loess-mantled outwash plain and loess-mantled till upland. Goldy took a break from the football game to assist our judgers. Follow us on Instagram! @umnsoiljudging (

Goldy with an assist!
Dom Christensen, Mekuria Zemede and Rachel Wood describing a Hapludoll formed in loess over outwash

Monday, September 5, 2016

2016 Region V Soil Judging - A Prelude

As the weather turns and the semester begins, your University of Minnesota Soil Judging team is starting their preparations for the 2016 Regional Soil Judging Contest hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, October 9th - 14th. The Minnesota Formation is strong this year, with 19 students participating and 6 returning members from last year's team. We'll need all of that enthusiasm and experience because the Gophers have a Regional title to defend!

Thank you to everyone who continues to support the team. Soil Judging remains the most important experiential opportunity for soils students. Our students will improve their ability to read landscapes, describe soil profiles, and make use and suitability interpretations. And in a much deeper sense, they will learn to be bridge builders, connecting with people through a shared love of the land and the soil resource that crosses all ethnic, cultural and political boundaries. For this reason, they are world changers, representing the heart and soul of the University of Minnesota and the United States Land Grant mission.

Follow our blog for updates on class activities through the contest, and...

Be at one with your textural triangles!


Sunday, April 10, 2016

2016 Nationals: Manhattan, KS - Epilogue

The team arrived safely at Borlaug Hall from Manhattan, KS late yesterday afternoon. The past week has been an incredible experience for everyone. Once again we would like to thank Kansas State University faculty, staff, and students (Dr. Mickey Ransom, Dr. Colby Moorberg, Kim Kerschen and Michelle Scarpace and the entire KSU soil judging team), all of the official judges and organizers, and the landowners (particularly Dr. DeAnn Presley who hosted the team contest and shared her knowledge of area history) that granted permission for our students to access these sites. Although it is very easy to get caught up in the contest results and view them as the final goal, they should always be viewed as an afterthought.

Soil judging is most importantly about four things:

1. Education. Soil judging is an educational experience for everyone - the organizers, coaches, and student participants. The value in this educational experience is unparalleled. Soil judging is a class, first and foremost, an opportunity for students to expand their horizons (no pun intended!) and practice their fieldcraft.

2. Intercollegiate Exchange. Soil judging is an efficient means of intercollegiate exchange. Anybody who has suffered through a coaches meeting knows that soil judging forces faculty from different regions to reconcile their views and biases while looking at the exact same soils - a rare opportunity for academic exchange in a field environment. Both Dr. Doug Malo (South Dakota State) and Amber Anderson-Mba (Iowa State) have been fantastic colleagues this past week.

3. Student Fellowship. I would like to thank all Region V institutions for what I view as a continued deepening of camaraderie between our teams. I watched our Minnesota students cheer as hard or harder for Iowa State and South Dakota State as those schools won their own awards. I see genuinely playful joking between teams that has extended to us as coaches. These students have truly started forming cross-institutional bonds of friendship and I hope we can progressively strengthen the connection between our institutions.

Region V Representatives after the awards ceremony: Top row (L-R) - Casey Campbell (ISU), Geneva Knutson (ISU), Heidi Dittmer (ISU - Asst. Coach), Josh McDanel (ISU), Justin Chapman (ISU), Danny Brummel (ISU), Teng Vang (UMN), Brandon Walls (ISU), Andrea Williams (UMN), Stefan Swenson (UMN), Sondra Larson (UMN), Nick Vetsch (UMN), Amanda Wolff (UMN), Bri Egge (UMN), Allison Harvey (UMN), Mekuria Zemede (UMN), Nic Jelinski (UMN, Coach), Mickey Ransom (KSU - Coach, 2016 National Contest Organizer), Colin Tobin (SDSU - Asst. Coach). Bottom row (L-R) - Amber Anderson-Mba (ISU - Coach), Jordan Cooper (ISU), Emma Haven (ISU), Jake Ziggafoos (ISU - 2nd Place Individual!), Rusty Zimmerman (UMN - Captain, 3rd Place Individual!), Luke Ratgen (UMN), Matt Levan (ISU).  
4. Resume Building. Soil judging is a resume builder. The number of students who have now told me that they believe their soil judging experience opened doors for them on their job applications and interviews continues to grow. As an experience, soil judging is meaningful. It tells employers that students are astute observers capable of making independent decisions. It speaks volumes about the ability of a future employee to perform high quality work in many different types of adverse conditions. As I look at past teams coached by Dr. Terry Cooper on the pictures in Borlaug Hall, I see the names of many well accomplished professionals who have influenced the direction and quality of their organizations.

This post would not be complete without a tremendous thank you to all of the donors who made this trip possible. You directly enabled our students to participate in this educational opportunity and we are all forever grateful for your support. There are no words that I can find to express my gratitude and the team's gratitude for your generosity. Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

The 2016 Region V Soil Judging contest will be hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in September. Stay tuned in late summer for updates.

Be at one with your textural triangles - we'll see you in the pits!


Friday, April 8, 2016

2016 Nationals: Manhattan, KS - Results

The results are in: your University of Minnesota Golden Gophers are bringing home some serious hardware. The team won awards in all three categories - Individual (3rd, Rusty Zimmerman), Team (5th) and Overall (3rd)! The only other team to do the same was the National Champions, West Virginia. Congratulations to our neighbors to the south (Iowa State - 2nd place overall!, 2nd place individual (Jake Ziggafoos)) and west (South Dakota State - 4th place team judging).

A huge thank you to Dr. Mickey Ransom, Kim Kerschen, Dr. Colby Moorberg, Michelle Scarpace, the KSU Soil Judging team and all of the official judges, landowners and supporters who made the contest possible. You gave our students a tremendous opportunity to learn and grow, and you are forever welcome in Minnesota!

Hats off to this year's team for their dedication, hard work, and positive attitudes!
Minnesota Team A after Group Judging
The Minnesota formation: Top row (from left) - Nic Jelinski (Coach), Luke Ratgen, Nick Vetsch, Sondra Larson, Stefan Swenson, Bri Egge, Allison Harvey, Amanda Wolff. Bottom row (from left) - Andrea Williams, Mekuria Zemede, Rusty Zimmerman (Captain), Teng Vang.
Captain Rusty Zimmerman wins 3rd place out of 91 official judgers 
Your 2016 University of Minnesota Soil Judging team: Top row (from left) - Mekuria Zemede, Allison Harvey, Nic Jelinski (Coach), Bri Egge. Middle row (from left) - Sondra Larson, Teng Vang, Amanda Wolff, Andrea Williams. Bottom row (from left) - Luke Ratgen, Nick Vetsch, Rusty Zimmerman (Captain), Stefan Swenson.
Soon to be in the Borlaug Hall case...

2016 Nationals: Manhattan, KS - Day #8

Your Minnesota judgers just finished their two team pits. Today is much less windy than it has been all week, so all teams had good conditions in which to describe the final pits of the contest. I have been unbelievably impressed with the quality of discussion on this year's team - debating the merits of different parent materials, looking carefully for evidence of various features, and most importantly pulling out of the pit every now and again to place the soil and interpretations in landscape context. We don't know yet how we will place, but in so many ways the point is moot. Spirits are high, and the destination has already been embedded in the journey of education, scholarship, and fieldcraft that we have undertaken together. More updates later:

The Minnesota machine cranking out a team description
Minnesota team judgers: Teng Vang, Andrea Williams, Sondra Larson, Amanda Wolff, Nick Vetsch, Luke Ratgen and Rusty Zimmerman

Thursday, April 7, 2016

2016 Nationals: Manhattan, KS - Day #7

Today was the individual contest - the day was sunny and just *slightly* breezy on the high prairies of the Flint Hills: 35 mph sustained wind with gusts to 45 mph! Regardless, our team was excited to get to the contest pits (pictures below). Tomorrow is the team portion of the contest and tonight our students will be preparing for that - more updates to come after the team pits!
Teng Vang works on his description sheet at the first individual pit
Andrea Williams on the pit face starting her first pit of the day.
Luke Ratgen (second from right in pit) begins his individual description
Sondra Larson and Bri Egge (second and first from left, respectively) work side-by-side
Amanda Wolff (front left) and Allison Harvey (camo coat on right) begin their descriptions.

2016 Nationals: Manhattan, KS - Day #6

Today the team finished the final practice pits at the Mengel farm, just west of Randolph, KS. The group described four pits, a Haplustoll formed in residuum at a shoulder position, two Argiustolls on backslopes, and an Argiustoll on a stream terrace.

The team finished the day with an excellent (!) scorecard, so spirits are high. Tomorrow the contest begins with individual judging (3 pits) and Friday there will be two team judged pits.

I am continually impressed by the dedication, professionalism and hunger for knowledge displayed by our students. Soil judging is about the journey and the experience and education gained along the way - by any measure these students have achieved great things. 20 pits described in 6 days!

Goldy assists in a group judge of a Haplustoll formed in limestone residuum
Please join me in wishing our students the best of luck tomorrow. They are at one with their textural triangles.