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BYU’s Range Management Team Wins Big at Competition

The International Society for Range Management hosts an elite competition each year for students to flex their plant prowess. After winning the state-wide contest, the BYU team won first place in the International Undergraduate Exam and won the Trail Boss Award for the third year in a row. Dr. April Hulet and Dr. Matt Madsen in the Plant and Wildlife Sciences Department (PWS) led the teams, coaching students through fact memorization relevant to their discipline.

A group of smiling people pose while the person in the front holds a big brown trophy
Photo by April Hulet

Through faculty mentorship and class work the students become experts in their specialties. “We have classes that focus on each [topic], but then the test is just like another level with little details that you need to know,” Hulet explained. “In class, you can still get an A and not remember the smallest details. Here, it just focuses on excellence.”

Madsen shared that “the competition provides a unique opportunity for students to interact with seasoned professionals in the field, which offers invaluable networking and mentorship experiences.” He is proud of the hard work the students have put in. “As the students do their best in the competition," Madsen remarks, “I feel it instills in them a profound sense of accomplishment, which motivates them to strive for excellence in their academic pursuits and future careers.”

Raechel Hunsaker (PWS ’24), who competed on the plant identification team, shared her feelings on the event: “The Range Management Competition allowed me to sharpen my ability to identify rangeland plants and better understand principles of range management—a skill set I'll use for years to come in my future career and as a good steward over God's beautiful creations.”

The Society for Range Management logo features a cowboy silhouetted riding a horse

Another student, Cole Kempton (PWS ’24), reflected that he has been “blessed to be a part of this group for two years.” Kempton has loved the experiences he has had from participating in the competition. “The best part about it for me was the opportunity to be part of a team and represent BYU at an international level. I grew close to my teammates and am happy to call them my friends. Being successful at the competition was just the cherry on top,” he says. Hunsaker and Kempton met with the team two to three times a week for practice and study.

As a result of competing, students become sought-after talent for internships and federal and state land management jobs. Most hiring professionals in the range management industry took part in the tests and presentations themselves, so they are familiar with the rigorous research acumen students gain.


Each event requires students to learn unique aspects of professional range management and perform under strict time restraints and judge scrutiny.

The Undergraduate Range Management Exam (URME) encourages students to memorize material and perform various calculations, such as estimating how many animals of a particular type you can put on the land for a period of time. The students must also be knowledgeable about various rangeland ecosystems (e.g. salt-desert shrublands and alpine meadows), ecology, monitoring methods, and best management practices. Students dedicate over 50 hours to studying facts and figures outside of class to adequately prepare for the exam.

We have classes that focus on each [topic], but then the test another level with little details that you need to know. In class, you can still get an A and not remember the smallest details. Here, it just focuses on excellence.
April Hulet

For the Plant ID exam, students need to be familiar with over 200 different types of plant species and their exact scientific names. During the contest itself, they are tasked with identifying these plants just by looking at one physical sample. Competitors get one minute per plant to identify the specimen correctly.

While both exams are the bulk of the contest, participants can also compete in an extemporaneous speaking event which challenges students on their ability to use resources, develop a speech, and present within two hours. The Rangeland Cup poster competition is another event where teams work on current topics of historical importance to rangeland ecology and management.

If all students competing at BYU do well, they qualify for The Trail Boss Award. The university with the highest total points when all the events and individual awards are combined wins this honor. This is the most prestigious award given to universities and BYU has won it for the last three years.

Hulet believes that BYU students do well in this competition because they are “dedicated to learning and taking advantage of all opportunities." She goes on to say, "I’ve been really impressed by the BYU students work ethics and their desire to represent BYU well.”

BYU students won the following awards:
Collegiate Trail Boss Award
1st place Undergraduate Range Management Exam (URME) Team - Coached by Curtis Drake and Dr. Matt Madsen

Individual URME awards:
2nd place: Cole Kempton
4th place: Eliza Cash
5th place: Samuel Leigh

Other Events:
4th place Range Plant ID Team - Coached by Janetta Teichert and April Hulet
3rd place Undergraduate Extemporaneous Speaking - Anna Pugmire
3rd place Rangeland Cup - Autumn Gudmundsen, Joanna Pincock, Sylvia Duke, and Samuel Leigh

Combined Individual Award (this is given for placing in the top in URME and Plant ID)
5th place: Russell Torgersen
4th place: Cole Kempton
3rd place: Eliza Cash