Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon member Orion Schwab at right talks about the team’s trip to the National Conservation Foundation Envirothon Competition in North Carolina. Team member John Brenner looks on. Livermore Falls Advertiser photo by Pam Harnden

JAY — Last week two members of the Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon team met with the Jay–Livermore Falls Lions Club.

Orion Schwab and John Brenner shared their experiences while attending the National Conservation (NCF) International Envirothon held at North Carolina State University from July 27 to August 3. They thanked the Lions for their financial support.

“We couldn’t have done it without the support of the community,” he said.

Schwab said Envirothon involves field tests.

“Envirothon is the largest environmental science competition in the world,” he said.

The five test areas are soils, wildlife, aquatic ecology and forestry with the fifth being a current issue. This year is was agricultural technology.

“We talked a lot about by the year 2050, in my lifetime, there will be 9.7 billion people to feed. We have the resources to do it but not sustainably, not without seriously affecting the environment,” Schwab said.

He said one quarter of the people in the world lack an adequate water supply. Agriculture can seriously impact water quality.

“North Carolina is one of the most agriculturally productive places in the United States. There are a lot of massive industrial hog farms. In hurricanes and floods manure washed in to the water supply.

“We were given a problem scenario in the morning then given six hours to come up with a solution and presentation,” Schwab said.

Brenner said, “It’s a 20–minute presentation. Six hours was not enough time!”

Schwab said they lost a few points because their presentation was only 13 minutes. The scenario given was how to bring a small farm’s forest land back into agricultural production.

Their solution was to thin the forest out, then bring hogs in to graze.

“It’s a more efficient way to create pasture,” Schwab said. “Grain corn can’t be fed to humans. It’s fed to chickens or beef which humans then eat.

“Every time energy moves up one level on the food chain, 90% is removed. Grain to chicken to human is a massive energy loss.

“By feeding cattle grass which we can’t eat we’re using natural resources we couldn’t otherwise use,” Schwab said.

Brenner said their advisor, Rob Taylor is the force for the Envirothon program.

“Spruce Mountain had three teams at the regional competition. NCF caters to your state, makes the current issue problem more relevant to where you live, what you would experience in the real world,” Brenner said.

Spruce placed first, second and third at the regional competition. Those teams placed first, second and fifth at the state competition.

“There were four regionals in Maine. California only has the state competition. Maine has more of a bracket to get to the top team.

“I went last year (to the International competition). It helps. Winning makes you want to go again,” Brenner said.

He gave credit to the hosts, who put in a lot of effort to run the program.

“They may be looking for Maine to host it. There are 500 students, their advisors (mentors). It’s held at a college or university, involves a lot of planning,” Brenner said.

Schwab said the four tests were worth 100 points each.

“We struggled with soils, it was an extremely hard test. At this competition very good scores are greater than 90. The top teams score 95 to 98. In soils the highest score was 69 this year.

“Wildlife was extremely picky about the answers,” Schwab said.

Brenner said, “We were 31st this year. For us that’s not historically terrible. Last year was the best we’ve ever done in 20 years at Spruce Mountain.

Schwab said this team were together as freshmen and got to the state competition.

“We were known as the Fab 5. Taylor broke us up the last two years. We were back together this year, we know each other really well. We had high expectations,” he said.

One Lion said, “You say you didn’t do very well but you both are smiling, animated about what you did.”

Brenner said they enjoy what they do.

“Envirothon is completely extra curricular. We have a dedicated mentor in Rob Taylor. He puts in much more time and effort than anyone else I know.

“He starts training kids in middle school. The second team did really good. They almost beat us,” he said.

Schwab said Spruce’s future in Envirothon is in good hands.

“The next group coming up is very, very good,” he said.




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