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Rogue Pack eyes 4th state title

The Rogue Pack Envirothon team poses for a picture after finishing its aquatic ecology testing station at the regional competition. The team has qualified for the state competition. Photo courtesy of Christopher Van Ness
Logos Public Charter School Envirothon team claims regional title

Medford’s Logos Public Charter School’s Evirothon team has quietly built a dynasty since it analyzed its first water sample in 2014, so it should come as no surprise that the Rogue Pack is one step away from claiming what would be its fourth state title in the past seven years.

The Rogue Pack qualified for state this year by winning the first-ever Southern Oregon Regional Envirothon April 9 at the Crater Renaissance Academy land lab in Central Point. The Logos Public Charter School six-student team captured first-place in aquatics, forestry and soils and second in wildlife and the current issue topic competition. The state meet, which will be a virtual affair this year, will be held May 7.

Envirothon is a hands-on natural resources competition broken down into six elements: aquatic ecology, forest ecology, wildlife ecology, soils and land use, current issue and oral presentation. Each team faces rigorous testing in what’s known as the core four – the ecology subjects plus soils and land use.

It’s quite a challenge, says director of Logos Public Charter’s department of science and inquiry and Rogue Pack coach Christopher Van Ness.

“So understanding at a very high level — beyond high school level — the concepts involved as well as the techniques and skills needed to measure the particular topics that you’re studying,” Van Ness said. “So students will need to know how to measure height diameter of trees (board feet), species identification as well as the ecological connections to our communities, economic uses and the ecological connections of trees in our state. … Same thing in water, they have to understand water quality testing and management, understand the organisms that live in there, how to identify them, what their ecological requirements are as well as the same thing in soil.”

Competing for the Pack are Andria Slaughter, Chris Anderson, Julian Gonzales, Adam Hill, Naomi Nelson and Lydia Reymer. Van Ness said the two returners – Slaughter, a sophomore, and Anderson, a junior – led the way at regionals.

At the Southern Oregon Regional Evirothon, the teams cycled through four stations, each testing their knowledge on one of the core four subjects. They had between 20 and 25 minutes to answer questions. These tests include up to 40 questions, some of which are measurement-based, some skill-based and some knowledge-based.

Resources such as field guides are available for some of the challenges, but not all.

“So ultimately it’s a team effort,” Van Ness said, “being able to divide that test up and attach those who have skills in various arenas to be able to go in and work to finish that test as a group. That’s the key, because one person can’t do this at all. So each team takes turn rotating through these stations. And that mirrors our state competition as well.”

Another aspect of the state competition, and one which is currently a work in progress for the Rogue Pack, is “current issue,” for which each team must create a 10-minute presentation. Presentations must be filmed and submitted.

In a sort of coincidental bonus, says Van Ness, the current issue topic this year — Water Resource Management: Local Control and Local Solutions — is somewhat topical for Southern Oregonians because its focus concerns surface water quality.

“Actually,” he said, “there are three ... case studies in the state of Oregon, and one centers around our Ashland trees ... so it just so happens that we have a local scenario this year that we get to address.”

The Rogue Pack must submit its presentation by May 3.

The state competition is sponsored by the Oregon Forest Resources Institute. The regional competition was organized by volunteers and sponsored by the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District, which is based in Central Point.

The Rogue Pack has a reputation for performing very well at state. It won it all in 2015, 2017 and 2019, and placed second there in 2016 and 2020. The team that wins Oregon’s state competition qualifies for the national Envirothon event, which will be held this year — scheduled so far to be held in-person — in Omaha, Nebraska. In the past, the Rogue Pack competed in national competitions in Missouri, Maryland and North Carolina.

“We’re on an odd year, right?” Van Ness said, pointing out his team’s history of odd-year victories. “So if we’re on a pattern, this will be a great one.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.