Cal Poly Humboldt Pathway Resource Science Students Earn Triple Recognition in Albuquerque


Proving their plant prowess once again, Cal Poly Humboldt students won big in a national plant identification contest.

Plant Identification Contest participants (left to right): Kaleie Pena, Ezra Huebner, Stephanie Sandoval, Autumn Pecarovich, Michael Miller, Caitlin Davis, Britney Long, Jennie Hernandez, Hunter Mortensen, Tiffany Douglas, Emma Kirshten, Todd Golder and Susan Edinger Marshall.
The Humboldt Rangeland Plant Identification Team took second place in a contest involving more than 100 students from across North America in a combined virtual and in-person contest. The in-person competition was held at the annual meetings of the Society for Range Management (SRM). Only 22 students in total passed (with a score above 60%), including four out of 10 participants at Cal Poly Humboldt, skillfully coached by instructor Todd Golder.

• Ezra Huebner, 3rd place
• Caitlin Davis, 12th place
• Hunter Mortensen, 14th place
• Emma Kirschten, 19th place

In the virtual competition, Antonia Narro placed first, beating perennial favorites University of Alberta.

At the event, contestants were asked to identify 100 plant samples, including grasses, herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees, having only one minute to write down the family/tribe, genus , species, life history and origin of each specimen.

The examination traditionally includes samples that are exceptionally difficult to identify: some have been defoliated, presented as seedlings or even burned. These skills are particularly important for the future fieldwork of the rangeland resource science and botany students who entered the competition. About one-third of the United States is considered rangeland, defined as open country dominated by herbaceous and woody species.

Kaelie Peña, a range resource science graduate and U.S. Forest Service range management specialist in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, received the Young Outstanding Early Career Award. Peña recently served as president of the SRMYoung Professionals Conclave.

Emeritus Professor of Rangeland Resource Science, Susan Edinger Marshall, received an award for excellence in undergraduate teaching.

Last fall, the students placed second to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the Region 6 Collegiate Soil Competition, beating USC Fresno and New Mexico State University. This qualifies Team Humboldt to compete nationally in Ohio in April. Chris Ziliotto (Rangeland Resource Science) took first place in descriptions and classification of pedons, with Olivia Winslow (Rangeland Resource Science) placing sixth. David Reinhart, a freshman forestry student, placed seventh in individual soil texturing, drawing on his experience as the Future Farmers of America National Champion from Foresthill High School in Placer County, Calif. .

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