Usually, we at Birdfreak try to stick to only bird news and bird conservation. We decided to make a slight exception to celebrate Birdfreak Team member Jennie’s success and the success of the NIU soil judging team this past weekend.
I (Veery) got the chance to compete in the ASA Region III – Collegiate Soil Judging Contest for Northern Illinois University (NIU). This year, the contest was held near Rhinelander, Wisconsin. NIU did very well, winning first place in the group portion of the competition and third place overall for the individual scoring.
One of our team (Congratulations Andrea!) won fourth place in the individual judging. (I placed 23rd, which is not too shabby for my first time competing.) We are now eligible to attend a National competition in the spring (which will be held in Missouri).
What is Soil Judging?
Pits are dug, and the soil is described by professional soil scientists. The judgers in the competition are given some information such as how many horizons (the different layers of soil) in the profile, and the pH and organic carbon levels (clues to what type of soil it is). Judgers use a scorecard to mark color, depth, percentage of clay and sand, shape, structure, and other features. Team and individual scores are tallied to find out who has described the soil the best based on a point system.
Soil = Bird Conservation?
I never thought I would be majoring in Geography, since my love revolves around bird conservation. My original plan centered on Biology courses. However, Geography and Geology majors are quite important to conservation. Understanding how environmental systems work help us figure out how to manage land, which in turns helps the birds. So, when it comes down to it, even studying soil profiles is for the birds!