By Nadia Mori PAg., Range Management Extension Specialist, Watrous
If this group of hard working and talented University of Saskatchewan (U of S) students is any indication for what’s to come in rangeland management, the future looks bright indeed, as demonstrated by their consecutive first place finish at an international range management competition.
Every year, the Society for Range Management (SRM) holds a competition for undergraduate students at its annual general meeting. In early February, the University of Saskatchewan team of ten students from the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, travelled to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to compare their knowledge of range management against students from 25 other North American universities.
The competition is unglamourously called the Undergraduate Range Management Exam, or URME for short. Passing the exam is no small feat however, as it tests knowledge in range ecology, grazing management, range improvements, range regions, range inventory and analysis, as well as multiple-use relationships on rangelands.
Preparations for the exam start at the beginning of the university fall semester. Students attend weekly study sessions in addition to their full class loads. Team captains Erin Anderson and Ashly Dyck kept the team on track through numerous fundraising events to help cover the cost of travelling to the international meeting. The hard work comes with the reward of travelling to a professional conference, networking with industry professionals and discovering many big and small personal lessons on how to succeed under pressure. The U of S team excelled under pressure by standing out in the best possible way: being the highest scoring team two years in a row. Out of the 169 contestants, Tracy Niggli also placed 5th individually.
Five of the 10 team members also chose to participate in the plant identification teaching exam, where students study a collection of 200 North American rangeland plants to be tested on 100 specimens. The teaching exam provides a supportive environment for students to expand their plant identification skills. In addition to the exams, two students also participated in a well-attended undergraduate paper presentation session, where they featured the findings of their senior theses. With a successful first professional technical presentation under their belts, both students are eager to dive into graduate studies next.
After the competitions, technical presentations and networking events, the team took snowy Minnesota tours featuring targeted grazing and the history of eagles. After six years of coaching the team, the time has come for me to pass on the baton. I am immensely proud of all the students I got to work with over the years and could not have asked for a better finish to my time as coach of the U of S range team.
For more information visit Society for Range Management.