University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown

UPJ Soil Judging Team

Soil Judging is an intercollegiate competition that takes place across the country.  Pitt-Johnstown participates in the Northeast Regional competition which takes place early October every year, with a rotation of schools hosting the location.  Qualifying teams will advance to the National competition held annually in April.   
Soil judging is a hands-on learning experience where individuals learn from experienced soil scientists about the classification and identification of soil features to determine their suitability for human use.  Soil judging develops and tests a student’s ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world natural systems.
To effectively manage our environmental and natural resources, soil classification systems have been developed to communicate the characteristics and properties of soils in consistent and understandable terms. By surveying/judging soil properties such as color, texture, and structure; horizon thickness; parent material(s); drainage characteristics; and landscape position, soil scientists can classify soils in the field to determine their suitability for human use (e.g. agriculture, roads, buildings, septic systems, etc.) and environmental functionality (e.g. hydraulic conductivity, effective soil depth, and surface runoff potential).

Meet the 2019 Team

“Soil Judging was a great experience of which I was extremely happy to be a part of.  I went not knowing what to expect.  For the first two days of practice, I was feeling very overwhelmed with information that was being thrown at me.  By the day of the competition, I was feeling more confident.  By the time we got our scores for the soil pits we had judged, I realized that I did a lot better than I presumed I would’ve.  After the competition was over, I realized how much I had actually learned and how much of an advantage I had over the people in my soils in the environment class, who didn’t attend the soils competition.  This was an incredible, and extremely fun learning experience.  I am very excited to attend the next soil judging competition and am looking forward to learning more about soils.”

Dillan Jeffrey, Junior
Environmental Studies major

"The knowledge I have gained in training and during the competition is so vast, you absolutely cannot learn that in a classroom setting. Traveling and studying different geography and geology is so important for environmental students and I think that is one of the best parts about this experience. It is all about learning how the soil was used historically, how the soil developed, and how that impacts future land use, and that is so critical for anyone in the environmental field to understand-- not just soil scientists. I am so unbelievably thankful I got the opportunity to experience Soil Judging. I can't wait to see this team bring home titles and trophies in the years to come!"

Joece Lynn, Senior
Environmental Studies and Geography double major

“The soil judging competition I attended this year taught me more than I could have ever learned in any classroom. 17 different soil pits over three days taught me more than just horizons, texture, and color; but also, teamwork and strategy when under the pressure of a time limit. I plan on attending the 2020 Soil Judging Competition to refine my skills and pick up on things I may have missed the first year and our schools first time attending!” 

Olivia Toomey, Junior
Environmental Studies and
Geology double major

“I really enjoyed the fact that it was completely different from anything I have ever done before, learning the basics of soil profiling was a fantastic experience that I will never forget.”

Alex Colosimo, Senior
Environmental Studies major

“Soil judging is a fun and educational experience that is a perfect opportunity for students to learn how to work as a team while getting hands-on experience with soil.” 

Hope Leer, Junior
Environmental Studies major

“Soil judging was a great time; we all had a blast learning outside of the classroom in a competition setting and I will be making another appearance at the next soil judging competition.”

Emorson Wentz, Junior
Environmental Studies major

Soil judging is not just a short weekend competition. It is a 4-day immersive learning experience that is packed full of hands-on experience!” 

Richard Wagner, Senior
Environmental Studies and Geography double major

Dr. Mitzy Schaney, Assistant Professor and Director of Environmental Studies is the team coach and instructor; she has done soils consulting for over a decade and is qualified as a professional soil scientist.

Join the Team

UPJ Soil Judging Team is comprised of students who have an interest in Soil Science at any level, and who are looking to develop stronger field interpretation skills.  Soil Judging is not only a resume builder, but the ability to describe and interpret soil profiles is also a unique and valuable career skill.  
The 2019-2020 academic year is the first year of the UPJ Soil Judging team.  October 8-12, 2019, the team traveled to Easton Maryland for the Northeast Regional Collegiate Soil Judging Competition hosted by the University of Maryland. 
In October 2020, the Team will attend the 2020 Northeast Regional Collegiate Soil Judging Competition, tentatively hosted by Delaware Valley University. 
Interested students should register for one (1) credit Geog 1920 Directed Research – Soil Judging.  There are no prerequisites for Geog 1920.  All necessary skills and knowledge will be introduced, mainly through practical field experience describing and analyzing local soils and landscapes. 
Almost all travel costs will be paid by money gained through Team fundraisers and through the combined financial support of the UPJ Geography and Environmental Studies Club, the Division of Social Sciences, and the UPJ Student Government Association.  Equipment will be purchased with the help of a Seeding Grant from Pitt Momentum Funds. 
The Division of Social Sciences will provide the van that we will drive to and from the Regional Contest. The costs of lodging and some meals during the competition will also be paid by Team funds. Other (extracurricular) expenses, such as souvenirs or entertainment, are not covered and are the responsibility of individual students.