March 9-12, four UF students put their collective animal science knowledge to the test at the American Society of Animal Science regional Academic Quadrathlon in Des Moines, Iowa.
Rebecca Pollard, Justin Russell, Katie Lemon and Sam Dzierzak first competed against other Findlay students on campus to earn the honor of traveling to Iowa to compete in the regional competition against schools like the Ohio State University, Michigan State University and Iowa State University.
Findlay’s team came in fifth out of 16 teams, coming in ahead of schools like Purdue University and the University of Madison-Wisconsin.
“I was surprised at how well we did!” said Pollard, a pre-veterinary/biology major. “Even though our team was all pre-veterinary medicine majors, we were able to compete well against large agricultural/animal science state schools in a strictly animal science competition … It showed how well-rounded an education at UF can be.”
Although UF’s team did very well, the quadrathlon isn’t necessarily about the competition. “We’re not worried about who does better than who,” said Brian Whitaker, Ph.D., assistant professor of animal science, who advises the Findlay team and is an advocate for this type of learning. “It’s about getting students exposed to different people and developing team leadership … It’s about the experience.”
Teams are strategically formed to put together a group of students with a diverse knowledge base. Each team competes in four sections: laboratory practicum, written exam, oral presentation and quiz bowl. The sections are designed so that team members have to rely on each other in order to finish on time, pulling from each of their knowledge banks as needed.
The laboratory practicum includes approximately one dozen stations, which may include topics as varied as poultry handling, companion animal handling, meat evaluation and general laboratory equipment. Each team is allowed 15 minutes at each station.
The written examination consists of four one-hour exams, all completed as a team.
For the oral presentation, teams choose from one of three given topics, which could include current discussions such as food safety, country-of-origin labeling or use of antibiotics in livestock. They are given 90 minutes to develop a 12-minute presentation that utilizes scientific data. Additional points are given for creativity, such as incorporating a skit or presenting the information in an interesting format.
The final portion of the competition is the quiz bowl, which is a double-elimination bracket. The final two teams in the bracket compete during an evening session at the society’s regional meeting.
“It was a great learning experience,” said Pollard. “It enhances public speaking skills, challenges you to think quickly and reinforces what you’ve learned. It also is just a lot of fun and a chance to meet other students!”
This marks the third year that UF has participated in the competition.