SLIDESHOW: A look inside the world of soil judging

America’s Next Top Pedologist? Soilvivor? The Biggest Loess-er? Yeah, soil judging contests probably won't have their own reality TV show any time soon. But that doesn't mean what goes on at these competitions has to remain a mystery. Take a tour behind the scenes of the 53rd annual National Collegiate Soils Contest, held in late April at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in Platteville, WI.

Screen shot of soil judging slideshow

More than 120 students from 23 schools competed in the six-day event, with a team from University of Maryland ultimately nabbing top honors overall. But all the participants got to practice the art and science of evaluating soils and landscapes—a skill that’s key to their future careers as soil scientists. And not a single one got voted out, had her torch snuffed, or heard the words, “You’re fired!”

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