When it comes to soil judging, West Virginia University student Adrienne Nottingham is among the world’s elite.
The Green Bank, West Virginia, native placed seventh at the International Field Course and Soil Judging Contest in G�d�llő, Hungary, at the beginning of September.
As an agronomy graduate student in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, Nottingham is a national ranked member of the WVU Soils Team. She placed third in the 2015 National Collegiate Soils Contest, qualifying her to compete in the international event as a member of Team USA.
Team USA won first place overall and was represented by Nottingham, Erin Bush of Kansas State University, Stephen Geib of Delaware Valley University, and Kristen Pegues of Auburn University.
The students competed as individuals and as a team, and scores from both were used to determine final overall standings.
Each member of Team USA placed in the top ten. Pegues was awarded first; Bush tied for fourth, and Nottingham and Geib tied for seventh. As a team, the students were awarded second place.
“I am thrilled to have placed seventh since my goal was to place in the top ten,” Nottingham said. “I’m even more pleased that our team won the overall competition especially since we were the youngest team in the competition.”
Jim Thompson, professor of soil science and WVU Soils Team coach, praised Nottingham and Team USA for their efforts.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for these students to study unique soils, make new friends from around the world, and create memorable experiences that will last a lifetime,” he said. “Through it all, Adrienne was a great ambassador for WVU and the Davis College.”
Now in its second year, the contest was an opportunity for students and scholars to interact and experience the landscapes and soils of Hungary and the Danube Basin. It was also considered one of the highlight activities celebrating the International Year of Soils.
Competitors from 28 countries used their knowledge and practical skills to describe, understand and interpret soil characteristics in the field. Teams spent the four days prior to the competition researching Hungary’s soils and landscapes.
According to Nottingham, however, nothing helps individuals learn the concepts like seeing them first hand in a soil pit.
“Soils are highly variable, even when they are only a few feet apart, so I got to see soils that were very different than what I’ve been exposed to in the United States,” Nottingham said.
She went on to explain that several environmental factors contributed to the difference.
“All of the soils we saw were located in a large basin and a lot of them were sodium affected with high levels of calcium carbonate,” she said. “These characteristics greatly influence soil quality and land use potential.”
Describing those soils as well as the experts in the area was particularly difficult, but Team USA was certainly up for the challenge – even though the members had never met prior to this competition.
“I had never met my teammates before,” Nottingham said. “At previous contests they were the competition! However, it didn’t take long for us to get to know each other and settle into our team roles. I really loved getting to know them and hope our paths cross again sooner rather than later.”
She even made friends with members of opposing teams.
“I frequently found myself hanging out with students from the German, Croatian, Spanish, Hungarian and African teams,” she said. “That was just another awesome part of this whole experience – I developed relationships with people from around the world while learning about soil.”
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