On Campus: Soil Judging

Kennadi smiles for a photo in a pit where she’s gathering samples

College is the perfect time to branch out and try something new. Dig in with environmental sciences major Kennadi Griffis to see how a meeting with a faculty member got her interested in soil judging — and how that experience has validated her major and won her an international award on Team USA.

Soil judging is probably something a lot of people haven’t heard about. What is it?

My family and friends are always asking me what soil judging is! I like to describe soil judging as being hands-on experience with soil morphology. You look at the texture, structure, color, and other characteristics to evaluate its land uses. Could this soil be used for a septic system, basements, a golf course?

What originally got you interested in the university’s Soil Judging Team?

In the first semester of my freshman year, I took the course SOIL 153 (Soil Resources) with Dr. Becky Young, the co-coach of the Soil Judging Team. I knew that UNL had a team because I saw the club listed on NvolveU. During a one-on-one exam review session, I asked Becky how I could get involved in soil judging. She invited me to the next meeting, and I was immediately interested!

Photos of Kennadi gathering samples

The Soil Judging Team has practice pits on East Campus and throughout the city. How was your experience learning by doing?

Getting out of the classroom and learning by doing helped me understand what type of future career I would like. I quickly learned that I love being on my feet and moving all day long! The Soil Judging Team is a great opportunity for anyone who loves being outside, staying on their feet, or traveling.

You are the first Husker to compete at the International Soil Judging Contest. Talk about your time in Scotland and what it was like to win first place as part of Team USA.

Scotland was a fantastic experience — I have never been out of the country before so I had to expedite a passport just for the competition. I kept busy the first week attending lectures, judging practice pits, and exploring the University of Stirling campus.

During my second week in Scotland, I attended the World Congress of Soil Science 2022 with my teammates. During the day I attended lectures on soil morphology, soil chemistry, and soil forensics. At night, my teammates and I explored Glasgow and ate local food.

Photos of Kennadi grinding down some of the soil and the samples in sectioned out in a muffin tin

Is there anything you’ll take away from this experience?

My biggest takeaway from this experience is that I chose the right major for me. Making new connections, seeing the world, and working in nature is everything that I could’ve asked for in a career. Even though I only have two more years of soil judging left before I graduate, I know the skills and knowledge I’ve obtained will carry through to my future endeavors.

What is your advice to students who may be hesitant to get involved with something new?

My advice to students who may be hesitant to get involved with something new is to get involved with a friend! It can be intimidating to try something new when you don’t know anyone. My best friend is also on the team and it makes the experience even more enjoyable.

Is there anyone that inspires you?

My biggest motivators are my parents. As a child, I watched them work hard every day and build themselves up to where they are now. This motivates me to get involved in what I am interested in and give it 100% effort every time.

Read more about Kennadi’s experience in Nebraska Today.

Kennadi smiles at a fellow soil judging student

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