West Virginia Universitys Soils Team will head to Logan, Utah Saturday (April 14) to defend its championship status in the National Collegiate Soils Contest April 19-20

The WVU team took first place in team and individual competition in last years contest at San Luis Obispo, CA, and members are hoping for a repeat.

Collegiate soil judging provides training and practical experience for students learning proper methods of soil and site evaluation used by professional soil scientists,said James Thompson, the teams coach and an assistant professor of soil science in WVU s Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences.

In October, the team traveled to the Southeast Regional Soils Contest in Bowling Green, Ky., where it qualified for the national contest by placing fifth out of 12 teams. The 2006 WVU squad also qualified with a fifth-place finish in regional competition.

The eight-member team is comprised of students from across WVU s Davis College and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

As their coach, I am pleased with their enthusiasm and commitment to learning about soils,said Thompson.

Team members are: Justin Barnes, a forest resources management major from Charlottesville, Va.; Corry Calderone, an agronomy major from Finleyville, Pa., who took top individual honors in the 2006 contest; Kim Godbey, an animal and nutritional sciences major from Ripley, W.Va.; Cody Mozena, an environmental protection major from St. Clairsville, Ohio; Tony Palmieri, a geology major from Manassas, Va.; Randy Riddle, an agronomy major from Ocean View, Del.; Kent Smith, an agronomy major from Philippi, W.Va.; and Amber Taylor, an agribusiness management and rural development major from Sandyville, W.Va..

Team members have been busy preparing for their trip to Utah, where they will be exposed to soils and landscapes drastically different than the familiar soils and landscapes of West Virginia.

“The environment in Utah is drier and colder than West Virginia,”Thompson explained.”The soils the students will see and describe commonly have accumulations of salts and extremely sticky clay. Very thick topsoil layers are also found there. The students will need to develop new skills in order to adapt to the local conditions.”

The team will spend April 15-18 training and acquainting themselves with Utahs soils.

Calderone is optimistic about the teams chances for a repeat.

Every member on team is a very strong competitor, and I feel that we all bring a good quality to the team,Calderone said.We are looking forward to having a good time and learning a lot about new soils. Even if we don’t win, I know we will take something away from the contest.