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Winning UMD Team Cements Terp Soil-Judging Dynasty

By Maryland Today Staff

A University of Maryland team took first place at the 58th National Collegiate Soils Contest—the fifth such title and the third in the last seven years.

Martin Rabenhorst, a professor in Environmental Science & Technology, coached the winning team in April and was also a member of the original winning team in 1972 as a UMD undergraduate.

“All of life is built upon the soils,” Rabenhorst said. “All the food we eat, all the fibers that go into clothing, many building materials, water and the quality of what we drink, all of those things are related to the soils.”

In soil-judging competitions, students first arrive in a new state and spend four days looking at practice sites that have been pre-assessed by the official judges—typically local professional soil scientists—which helps them learn about the soils in a new area.

During the official competition, students have an hour to characterize each new 5-feet-deep pit, identifying and describing the characteristics of the layers, classification and development processes of the soil, its ability to transmit and retain water and support plants, the geological history of the site itself, and potential challenges for various land uses.

Team members included Yunxuan Pei, Aubrey Wiechecki (who took 5th place individually), Cathelyn Wang (7th place), Rachael Heisey. Antonio Vega, William Mast, Dyani Frye, Anna Lowien, Jonathan Moy and Isabella Bruno. Doctoral student Barret Wessel was assistant coach.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.