Envirothon 2019 Current Issue

The 2019 NCF Envirothon Competition will be held in Raleigh, North Carolina, at the end of July.  The committee for the competition has chosen to look at sustainable farming and feeding the world with their current issue:

Agriculture and the Environment : Knowledge & Technology to Feed the World

There are many articles that estimate the population of the Earth to be approximately 9 billion by the year 2050.  One of the primary concerns for the agricultural industry is how will farmers be able to grow enough food to feed this growing population, while also protecting natural resources such as soil, water, air, wildlife, and forestry resources.

Students will learn the concepts of how agriculture and all natural resource areas are interrelated, and how the use of new technologies are key to increase food production.   Key topics will include:

  • Understand the importance of moving toward sustainable farming systems to conserve natural resources, mitigate climate change, reduce erosion and protect water quality and quantity, and promote pollination;
    • Comprehension of farming practices that build soil organic matter such as composting, crop rotations, cover crops, conservation tillage, and management intensive grazing systems to improve soil health;
  • Understand integrated pest management and biological pest control techniques used to prevent insect pest, disease, and weed problems;
  • Understand the role of new technology: agricultural biotechnology; precision agriculture; and using UAV (drones, GIS, etc.) to increase farm efficiency for food production.”

For more details and study resources on the current issue topic, please follow the link associated with the current issue topic, Agriculture and the Environment : Knowledge & Technology to Feed the World

2018 SD Envirothon

2018 South Dakota Envirothon Slated for Outdoor Campus East!

Join us in Sioux Falls on April 30th and May 1st, 2018, for the SD Envirothon Competition!  We are looking forward to a great competition and have room for more teams!  I’ll keep updating here, and on Facebook, so check in to see the latest details! 

To register your team, complete the form below!

2018 SD Team Registration

South Dakota Envirothon 2017

2017 South Dakota Envirothon Top Team Overall

Rapid City FFA with Advisor, Bobbie Jo Donovan

Rapid City FFA with Bobbie Jo Donovan and alternate


The South Dakota 2017 Envirothon was held on the banks of the Missouri River, at Cedar Shore, near Oacoma, SD, on April 2nd and 3rd.  Seven teams were able to join us for learning, laughter, and friendly competition.

On Sunday, the teams and their advisors checked in and then we got started with some amazing presentations from natural resource professionals across the state that were filled with passion and knowledge about their area of expertise.  Advisors, and students, alike, had great accolades to share with SD Envirothon about all that they learned, and how interesting the presentations were.  Our natural resource professionals are passionate about the conservation and stewardship of our resources, and they shared that passion with this group.  It was very exciting.

Later in the evening, the teams were presented with the current issue scenario…to make a long story short, we had a farmer that was dealing with some ugly packing of his soil, and he needed to figure out why this was happening and what he could do to improve the health of his soil for better crop growth now, as well as in the long-term.  Yes, this is the far abbreviated, and less technical version  of the scenario!  The teams were then handed their bags of goodies, and had two hours to create a presentation that they could present to the judges on Monday, with their projected solutions to this situation.  Paper and markers were flying, as creativity rolled to produce their final products.  When they were finished, everything was collected and put in a safe place until it was time to present the following day.

Monday morning brought about testing of the various areas of study.  It was a bit chilly and damp, but the team prevailed through the chill, got their trees identified and measured for forestry.  A bit of “fresh” air never hurt anyone, right?  Their minds were cleared and ready for presentations!  Our elite group of judges, from various walks of life, organizations, and associations, around the state, were ready for them!  Teams presented to groups of 4-5 judges, and then we broke for lunch.  Scores were tallied and then we gathered for the closing ceremonies.

Jeff Zimprich, from one of SD Envirothon’s fabulous sponsors, NRCS, shared a great story of the power of healthy soils!  Have you ever thought about how a pair of tighty whities would hold up against the powerful soil microbe?  Well, look no further…our dear students at SDSU completed a study on this phenomenon, and Jeff shared their findings with us at Envirothon.  Let me just say, those tighty whities don’t stand a chance against the fierceness of healthy soil and their super heroes, the MICROBES!  Check out the link below to see what happens to undies that are buries in the soil for 6 weeks…caution…your mind may be blown!

SDSU Tighty Whities Research Project

Photos of the “Tighty Whitie Project” Results:

Amazing the power of a tiny microbe…thank you for sharing this study with SD Envirothon!

Tighty Whities are a tough act to follow, but since all we had left were awards, and thanks yous to our fabulous sponsors and volunteers, I think we pulled it off!

Awards were given to the teams in each category of study:  Aquatic Ecology, Soils/Land Use, Wildlife, Forestry, Current Issues Written Test, Current Issues Presentation, and the Granddaddy of “Em All…the Overall Team Award!  Top teams in each category were given an Envirothon Medallion.  The Overall Team also won an all-expense paid trip to the Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmittsburg, Maryland, in late July for the NCF North American Envirothon, and also a scholarship to attend SDSU’s Natural Resources Engineering Camp (which sounds so very cool, by the way!) in mid-July.

So…drumroll please…the winners were as follows!

Top Honors for Aquatic Ecology:  Tripp 4H/Winner HS with their Advisor, Laura Kahler

Tripp Co 4H-Winner FFA


Top Honors in the following categories:  Soils/Land Use, Wildlife, Tie for Current Issues Written Test, Current Issues Presentation–Rapid City FFA with their advisor, Bobbie Jo Donovan

Rapid City FFA with Bobbie Jo Donovan and alternate


Top Honors in Forestry and tie with Rapid City FFA for the Current Issues Written Test:  Mobridge-Pollock Team 2 with their advisor, Katie Konold

Mobridge-Pollock II with Katie Konold

Congratulations to all who participated in the 2017 SD Envirothon!  We hope you had a great weekend of learning and competition and we look forward to seeing you back in 2018!


And now, a shout out to our sponsors!

Without the support of several generous agencies, organizations, natural resource professionals, and more, Envirothon in SD wouldn’t be alive…we would like to thank the following for their financial support in making the 2017 SD Envirothon possible!

NRCS of South Dakota

South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources

South Dakota Conservation Commission

Smithfield Foods

Tim & Ree Reich

Tim & Bonnie Bjork

Butte County Conservation District

First Interstate Bank

National Conservation Foundation

US Department of Ag Forest Service

SDACD Auxiliary

…and so many more that gave of their time and energy to make this event happen!

Thank you to all who help with this endeavor!



Congratulations to the 2016 SD Envirothon Winners!

Before we announce our winners, a few words of thanks are in order.

Thank you to our sponsor Smithfield Foods for your generous contribution in support of the next generation of natural resource managers.

Thank you South Dakota State University for hosting our event.

Thank you to the judges, proctors and volunteers who put in time, often quite a bit of it, to make this event a success.

Thank you to the coaches and parents who helped and supported in a myriad of different ways.

And most of all, thank you to all the participants who put forth the effort and stepped out in trying something new. We salute you.

Now on to our winners!

Congratulations to the 2016 South Dakota Envirothon Winners: Tripp/Gregory 4H!

The five member team took top honors and were also the high scoring team in soils and wildlife.

First Place Winners

2016 SD Envirothon Winners Tripp/Gregory 4H L to R: Savannah Vogel, Sydnie Peters, Cody Amidon, Kayleb Brozik, Avery Gilchrist, coach Laura Schwagel.


Congratulations runners up Grant County 4H  who were the high scoring team in forestry, aquatic ecology and the current issue test.

Runners Up group

2016 SD Envirothon Runners Up Grant County 4H. L to R: Antonia Block, Kylie Mogen, Danielle Kasuke, Jared Storms, Katie Mogen, and alternate Ethan Bohn.

Congratulations to Alcester Hudson 1 for their exceptional presentation, shown here wowing the judges Aquatic Invasives.


We are already planning for the SD Envirothon 2017. Plan to be there! (During the spring break week of SDSU).


Announcing the Current Issue Challenge!

Teams! This is your challenge. Prepare the following to bring to the SD Envirothon. Your poster will be displayed and you will have to meet “the public” (aka judges).


The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Park is seeking to increase compliance with a law to slow the spread of aquatic nuisance species (ANS). Your team is responsible for developing an outreach effort that will be used at a booth at an outdoor recreation show.


  1. Develop a poster. The poster should describe ANS and explain why it is a nuisance. The poster should also explain the laws.
  2. Develop an “elevator speech” that can be given by any team member that explains the poster to the recreation public.
  3. Develop “take home swag” with messaging to hand out. Note: you do not have to actually buy your give aways. A representation is adequate.
  4. Be prepared to answer questions from people who are resistant to the idea or don’t understand.

Envirothon DDN Training

Now that we are past the holidays, Envirothon preparation is beginning in earnest.

To help our students and teachers prepare, we are setting up a DDN training for Monday, Feb 1, 2016 from 4PM CST – 5:30PM CST.

If you would like to participate, please complete the form below by Monday Jan 25. Coaches, students, and steering committee are welcome


SD Envirothon News

A few updates about the SD Envirothon before the big holiday break.


1.      I will be sending out another package of resources for teachers who have signed up for the 2015-2016 SD Envirothon. Registered teachers will receive a copy of Teaching About Invasive Species as well as a printed out copy of the Invasive Species Study guide put together by this year’s host . 

2.      The national Envirothon site updated its study guide web pages. I have updated the SD Envirothon online study pages as well. Please let me know if you find any broken links.

3.      I sent out a mailing to all the science departments in the state. Please feel free to invite your colleagues as well as ag and natural resource teachers to coach a team. There is still time to sign up!

4.      The current issue challenge will be released at the end of January. This year’s format will be modeled on doing a poster at a conference.


Getting Started

There have been quite a few inquiries about the SD Envirothon recently, mostly from teachers/4H leaders wanting more info.

One leader wanted some assistance in getting her team ready. We realize that preparing a team for the SD Envirothon is a daunting task, so the state coordinator put together an email that goes out to everyone who makes an inquiry about bringing a team.

The email is posted below so that everyone has a sense of how to start getting ready for the SD Envirothon.


Thank you for your interest in the South Dakota Envirothon.. Signing up gets you into the “information loop.”

If after looking through this email and the website you decide you would like to participate your first step is to start recruiting students to participate.

Once you have a team together, you let the state coordinator know you are committing to bringing a team. You will be sent a kit with some supplies to help you prepare.

The preparation guide can be found here on our website: https://sdenvirothon.org/preparing-for-envirothon/. On the drop down menu under this tab is a list of suggested learning activities for each of the content areas. There are links on each of the pages that bring you to suggested activities to do to practice.

We strongly encourage teams of two students to become subject matter experts in two of the content areas. They select the activities and in turn present them to the others.

Below each heading are some things to begin with.  If you click on each topic heading, it will lead you to the NCF Envirothon learning guidelines, which link to NUMEROUS videos, diagrams, graphs, documents, and so much more!  There is a plethora of information out there…we are currently working on getting together more “South Dakota” specific resources to post, as well, so  please stay tuned!

Aquatic ecology

Know how to identify macroinvertebrates.

  • Use flashcards in your resource kit.
  • Familiarize yourself with the characteristics as discussed in this ID chart.
  • Do Water Quality, Ask the Bugs! in the Project WET sampler.

Know how to use a LaMotte Dissolved Oxygen kit.

Know how to delineate a watershed.

Know what nonpoint source pollution is.


Know soil forming factors

Know how to do a soil characterization.

Know how to read horizons.

Know how to read a soil survey.


Know how to use a clinometer.

  • GLOBE Clinometer. Note: this style of clinometer is helpful for understanding how the background math produces the reading. Natural resource professionals in soils and forestry will have access to clinometers used in the field by professionals.

Know how to calculate tree height and diameter.

Know how to calculate board feet.

Know how to identify trees (cottonwood, ash, oak, maple, pine) using morphology.

  • Use the Winter Tree Finder book in your resource packet. Start with a known tree and work backwards.
  • Use this Wisconsin Key.

Know your pace.


Know how to ID common animals by pelt, skull and track.

  • Borrow a critter crate from SD GF&P.

Know how to ID common birds by song.
Understand carrying capacity, adaptations, biodiversity, habitat.

Current Issue:  Agricultural Soil and Water Conservation Stewardship

Current Issue Learning Objectives

Key Topics

1.  Soil and Water Conservation best management practices; their purpose and implementation.

2.  How are soil and water conservation best management practices interrelated  to the management of wildlife, forestry and aquatic systems?

3.  How do agriculturists maintain a balance between their quality of life versus   the quality of the environment?


Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the training, the student will be able to:

1,  Identify and recommend soil and water conservation best management practices in agriculture.

2.  Describe the role of the federal government in conservation programs that benefit both agricultural producers and the environment.

3.  Identify the concept of soil quality/health to provide the needed functions for the conservation planning process.

4.  Identify various types of soil erosion and utilize different methods to estimate and predict soil erosion to assess land use impacts.

a.  RUSLE  2  Equation
b.  Aerial Photographs
c.  Topographic Maps
d.  Soil Maps
e.  USDA Classification System
f.  Soil Surveys

5.  Explain why land-use planning is important to our ecosystems and to our economy to achieve sustainable agriculture.

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Online Resources:

The Farm Bill 2014 Programs- Fact sheet describing the conservation programs



RCPP Projects by State-Link to Maryland projects (pdf)


 Farmers Guide to Conservation Stewardship Programs


Conservation Choices for Maryland Farmers          http://mda.maryland.gov/resource_conservation/counties/ConservationChoices_2012_FINAL%20(1).pdf

Guidelines for Soil Quality Assessment in Conservation Planning



USDA Guidelines for Soil Health Assessment



Soil Quality Indicator Facts Sheets



USDA official site for RUSLE



Understanding Erosion with the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation



Expanded Resources


Soil Science Management 6th Edition, Edward J. Plaster   (Contact: Delmar Cengage Learning)