INVERNESS — Only after a Southern hognose snake was identified, soils were examined and the age of the jawbone of a deer was determined was a champion crowned in Wednesday's annual Nature Coast Envirothon.
The winner of the competition, which took place at Fort Cooper State Park south of Inverness, was the Upwelling2 (as in "squared") team from River Ridge High School in Pasco County, earning the team $2,500 in scholarship money from the Tampa Bay Times.
The team — composed of Jake Stevens, Khory Bates, Shannon McAmis, Rachel Quinn and Stephen DeVinny — actually tied with the Mycosphaerella team from Central High in Hernando County — composed of Dhruv Patel, Theresa Hancock, Addison Hilyard, Nick Holung and Brett Waugh.
The tie was broken using bonus points. Both teams earned 66 points, but Upwelling2 had 13 bonus points to Mycosphaerella's nine.
"We studied," said Stevens, the Upwelling2 captain. "We had study groups, and we also studied individually."
The team is now eligible to advance to the state competition at Hillsborough River State Park on April 27.
The science competition included students from Pasco, Hernando, Citrus and Sumter county high schools. The state park provided the venue and lunch.
Forty teams of five members competed in five categories: soils, sponsored by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; forestry, sponsored by the Florida Forest Service; aquatics, sponsored by the Hernando County government; wildlife, sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; and sustainable rangeland, sponsored by the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Of the five categories, students seemed to favor wildlife and forestry, while finding soils and sustainable rangeland more challenging.
"I'd say soils was the hardest," said Jaimz Connell, 17, a Central High School junior on the Gold team. "It was difficult to understand some of the questions and the resources they provided us."
Central High junior Megan Roche, 17, also on the Gold team, disagreed, but had a good explanation as to why aquatics was more difficult for her.
"Because it was the topic I studied the least," she said.
To Jaimz, forestry was the easiest, "because I like trees," he said.
Category winners included:
Soils and aquatics: Central High School's Mycosphaerella team (Hernando): captain Dhruv Patel, Theresa Hancock, Addison Hilyard, Nick Holung and Brett Waugh; adviser, environmental science and biology teacher Rob Berger.
Forestry: South Sumter High's Agtastics team (Sumter): captain Dillon Jones, Matthew Hall, Matthew Gallup, Nathan Jameson and Garrett Cave; adviser, space science, chemistry and physical science teacher Emily Keeler.
Wildlife: Springstead High School's Chinques team (Hernando): captain Laura Paulavage, Kiara Colon, Laura Dutton, Andrew Roithmeier and Cynthia Alicea; adviser, environmental science, zoology and marine science teacher Lisa Dickinson.
Sustainable rangeland: River Ridge High's Upwelling2 team (Pasco): captain Jake Stevens, Khory Bates, Shannon McAmis, Rachel Quinn and Stephen DeVinny; adviser, environmental science and biology teacher Joshua McCart.
Top scores by county included:
Citrus County: Academy of Environmental Science's Academy Sharks team: captain Kaleb Jemison, Frank Ward, Sarah Morgan, Sara Marchant and Mattie Roberts; adviser, marine science, environmental science, chemistry and science research teacher Ashley Miller.
Hernando County: Central High's Mycosphaerella team.
Pasco County: River Ridge High's Upwelling2 team.
Sumter County: South Sumter High's Agtastics team.