HSU Best in U.S. in Plant ID Competition

Once again, Humboldt State University is first in the nation when it comes to identifying North American wildland plants.

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California oatgrass (danthonia californica), is a perennial rangeland grass.
Under Coach Todd Golder, an instructor in Rangeland Resource Science, the HSU team competed against universities from across the Americas at the Society for Range Management’s (SRM) plant identification contest.

As the contest was held virtually, awards were presented differently in 2021 with the Outstanding Achievement Award going to Universidad Autonoma Antonio Narro (Mexico). The second tier, Superior Achievement Award, was granted to Humboldt State University and the University of Alberta (Canada). Humboldt State was the only U.S. university to be awarded. Rangeland students from HSU have a strong track record in this competition.

At this month’s SRM event, competitors were asked to identify 100 plant samples including grasses, forbs, shrubs, and trees over Zoom, having just one minute to write down each specimens’ family/tribe, genus, species, life history, and origin. The exam traditionally includes samples which are exceptionally challenging to identify: some have been defoliated, presented in their seedling stage, or even burned. “It’s not just about the competition, it’s about building skills,” says Golder.

Roughly one third of the U.S. is considered rangeland, defined as open country dominated by herbaceous and woody species. The majority of the HSU team consists of Rangeland Science majors with an emphasis in working in these ecological systems once they have graduated.

“Rangeland has been mismanaged and degraded due to human impact, natural disturbance and changing climate conditions, so Rangeland majors are trained to identify those resource concerns and offer alternative management and infrastructure improvements, making them more sustainable,” says Golder. “Rangeland scientists look at the soils, the vegetation, the climate, and take into account the past, present, and future management of that land.”

The HSU competitors were Dabid Garcia, Andrea Martinez, Louise Martin, Amanda Huebner, and Michael Mees.