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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

2016 Nationals: Manhattan, KS - Day #5

Today our team traveled to Rannells Prairie (KSU property - unplowed prairie) to describe 4 Argiustoll pits: one on a summit, two on backslopes and a fourth on a footslope. We started our descriptions just as the sun was rising, it was extremely windy all day - and tomorrow is supposed to be even windier! 

Nick Vetsch, Luke Ratgen, Andrea Williams and Rusty Zimmerman looking for slickensides in an Argiustoll
Judging as the sun comes up (from left): Luke Ratgen, Amanda Wolff, Sondra Larson, Teng Vang, Rusty Zimmerman

Rannells Prairie Landscape

Monday, April 4, 2016

2016 Nationals: Manhattan, KS - Day #4

The team had the opportunity to describe 5 practice pits today, four of which were just a short drive from our hotel at the KSU Agronomy Farm North on the outskirts of Manhattan. At this site, the contest organizers had prepared a nice set of 4 pits along a catena (a Paleustoll on a summit, two Argiustolls on a backslope/footslope, and a Haplustoll on a stream terrace):
KSU Agronomy Farm North Catena
Sondra Larson completing an individual description sheet

Platy structure in an Ap horizon
Our day along this catena was split by a visit to another pit ~ 20 minutes away - an Ustipsamment with lamellae formed in reworked outwash (dune sand). We shared this pit with ISU - both team immediately started looking for lamellae thanks to their experience at Regionals in Grand Rapids this past fall.
Region V Reunited: Iowa State (foreground - in pit) and Minnesota (background left) share an Ustipsamment pit. Thanks to Amber Anderson-Mba (ISU) for timing this one!
We then headed back to the KSU Agronomy Farm North to complete our descriptions along the catena before linking up with the rest of the teams to go on a bus tour of the Bison enclosure at Konza prairie LTER:

Bison and wallow (foreground), Konza Prairie LTER
2016 Minnesota National Soil Judging Team (from left): Top Row - Nick Vetsch, Bri Egge, Sondra Larson, Stefan Swenson, Andrea Williams, Allison Harvey. Bottom Row - Rusty Zimmerman (Captain) Teng Vang, Mekuria Zemede, Luke Ratgen, Amanda Wolff

Sunday, April 3, 2016

2016 Nationals: Manhattan, KS - Day #3

Today the team traveled northeast out of Manhattan to Pottawatomie County, KS, our first look at a Pre-Illinoian glacial landscape. Along the way, we crossed stream terraces, outwash sediments and dunes, and finally up onto a till mantled landscape. This Pre-Illinoian till mantle was expressed most strongly on summit positions, and eroded or mixed/incoporated into colluvial/pedisediment-like material on backslopes. The team described four pits (all Argiustolls): Two pits on backslopes formed in colluvium/pedisediment over residuum, one on a backslope formed in glacial till over residuum, and finally a summit pit formed in glacial till:
Minnesota Team A completing a team description of an Argiustoll on a summit
Minnesota Team B completing a team description
Panoramic view of four pits on the Brunkow Farm site
Argiustoll pits at the Brunkow Farm site
The character of the Pre-Illinoian till that the students encountered was different from much of what we see further north, but unmistakably till in its unsorted textures (Clay Loams), and presence of coarse fragments of varying lithologies and sizes.

Sioux Quartizite erratics and sedimentary coarse fragments from spoil pile
The surface was exposed and eroded on a pasture just across the fence from pit P-17, showing us the quartzite erratics and other coarse fragments present in the till:
Exposed and eroded surface in pasture showing coarse fragments present in till (note quartzite erratic in foreground).
The team also had their first look at some Kansas slickensides, well developed clay films, prismatic structure, and many forms of secondary carbonates:

Secondary carbonate accumulations
Prismatic structure with slickensides (top and bottom) and clay films from a Btss horizon
The following video is for my Basic Soil Science students (if you are even reading this ;)): What is happening in this video?:

2016 Nationals: Prelude - Day #2

The team spent the first part of a bright and sunny day by describing three pits: Two Paleudalfs (a shoulder and a terrace) on the broad upland landscape of the Springfield Plateau, followed by an Argiduoll in a floodplain, all at Missouri State University's Southwest Research Center (thanks Tom!) just outside of Mt. Vernon, MO.

Several characteristics of these soils that were novel for our students are the large amount of coarse fragments in the cherty/dolomitic residuum, and the deep reds in some of the subsoil horizons. Ever used the 10R page? Our team has now! Ever scavenged the fine earth from between coarse fragments to get enough material to texture? 

10R soil material formed in dolomitic/cherty residuum under pedisediment.

Andrea Williams, Teng Vang, Sondra Larson, and Nick Vetsch compare estimates of soil texture.

A Paleudalf on a shoulder position
Our team geologist, Amanda Wolff, immediately set to work with a rock hammer, patiently describing to her peers the difference between limestone and dolomite as well as their field characteristics and identification.

A Paleudalf on a terrace

Lastly, the team described something more familiar to our Minnesota tastes - an Argiduoll with a buried A horizon formed in alluvium on a floodplain - 10YR colors ;).

We left Mt. Vernon and made the final leg of our journey to Manhattan, KS. We ate dinner, bought groceries for the week, and had a team meeting before packing the vans for tomorrow's first practice pits. So we have reached the end of the beginning. We are at one with our textural triangles.

Friday, April 1, 2016

2016 Nationals: Prelude - Day #1

After a pre-dawn link-up outside of Borlaug Hall, the team hit the road full of energy. Although you may not be able to see it in the picture below, Minnesota gave us some snow as a fitting send-off!
UMN Soil Judging Team packed and ready to roll outside of Borlaug Hall
We have big pre-contest plans...the team is using Friday and Saturday to look at soils throughout the region, in Iowa and Missouri, prior to arriving at KSU on Saturday afternoon. This is a critical learning experience and will enable the team to put the soils they will see in Kansas in a broader, regional context. We made our way south through the Des Moines Lobe till plain to our first stop mid-morning in Ames, IA, where we shook the rust off by describing a Hapludoll (individual) and Hapludalf (team) at the ISU Reactor Woods site (thanks Amber!):
Hapludoll on a summit position - ISU Reactor Woods site.
Hapludalf (Lester!), with an assist from Goldy.
The team immediately set to work and was eager to finally get their hands on some "real" soils (not the domesticated kind we keep around Borlaug) after a winter out of the field:

Minnesota A members Andrea Williams, Nick Vetsch, and Luke Ratgen in the pit while others contemplate major horizon boundaries and landscape context.
Minnesota B members Stefan Swenson and Mekuria Zemede evaluating structure type and grade.
Once the team completed their descriptions we had discussions about genesis, landscape variability, and geomorphology before hitting the road. After a brief dinner stop just south of Kansas City, Missouri, we arrived in Mt. Vernon, Missouri for the night. Tomorrow's agenda - more warm-up soils and a much anticipated arrival in Manhattan, KS!