Soils team tops in international contest

January 10, 2017
Soils team in New Zealand
Soils team in New Zealand
Soils team in New Zealand

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Nine students representing the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Collegiate Soils Team recently competed in the first Australasian Soils Competition that was held in conjunction with the Australia – New Zealand Soil Science Society Conference. The contest was held near the town of Wanaka, in the Otago region of New Zealand. The contest consisted of two team-judged sites and one individual site where competitors described and evaluated landscapes and soil profiles to classify the soil and determine appropriate land use based on soil properties. Contestants’ scores were based on the agreement between their descriptions and those of the professional soil scientists serving as contest officials.

The UW-Platteville team was the only United States team that competed, and included individuals representing 10 universities throughout Australia and New Zealand. Nine students participated in the competition: Daniel Brumm, Appleton, Wisconsin; Michelle Cliff, Patch Grove, Wisconsin; Brandon Hall, Williamsfield, Illinois; Gerald Hotelling, Arcadia, Wisconsin; Britany Iverson, Oconto Falls, Wisconsin; Lea Koning, Amboy, Illinois; Rachel Leege, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin; Samuel Peetz, Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin; and Austin Ross, Albany, Wisconsin.

The UW-Platteville A team consisting of Hall, Hotelling, Iverson, Leege and Koning placed first, while the B team consisting of Brumm, Cliff, Peetz and Ross placed fifth out of 13 teams. In the individual competition, UW-Platteville had four individuals among the top six competitors with Hall, Iverson, Koning and Leege occupying third through sixth place.

“I was impressed that we had four of the six top individuals in the contest and by the effort all of our students put into preparing for the contest and trip,” said Dr. Chris Baxter, professor of soil and crop science at UW-Platteville and coach of the team. “This contest used a soil classification system that our students and I had not used before, so it was a steep learning curve for all of us. Also, most of the other contestants were master’s and/or Ph.D. students at their respective universities and had significantly more soils-related coursework than our students. Because the contest and trip were during the last week of classes, the students had to make arrangements with their instructors to complete necessary coursework and/or finals before they left, which added to their workload as well.

Even more impressive than their performance at the contest was the politeness and professionalism the students displayed throughout the trip. They did a great job of looking out for each other, being courteous to our hosts, and did not get upset if plans had to be changed at the last minute. Every one of them was an outstanding representative for UW-Platteville and the United States.”

Following the competition, the students attended the New Zealand – Australia Soil Science Society conference in Queenstown, where they were recognized for their achievements in the competition and attended symposia on soil science and soil management. Following the conference, the team visited the Franz Josef Glacier and the capital city Wellington, and toured sites in the Waikato region where they learned about the volcanic history of the North Island and its impact on soils, land use and the cultural history of New Zealand.

The team would like to thank Dr. Carol Smith from Lincoln University and the organizers of the contest and conference for providing the opportunity to compete and attend the conference, and Dr. David Lowe from Waikato University for his time and effort spent making an outstanding learning experience. The team also thanks the many sponsors that provided financial assistance to cover travel expenses, including the Segregated University Fees Allocation Commission; the College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture; the University International Engagement committee; the CHS foundation; Badgerland Financial; the Wisconsin Certified Crop Advisor Board; Mound City Bank; and all the alumni and friends who donated to the UW-Platteville Foundation Soils and Crop Team Endowment - New Zealand Trip appeal.


Formatted by: Dan Wackershauser, Communications Specialist, Communications, 608-342-1194, wackersd@uwplatt.edu

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