About the Forest Ecology Contest

Getting Started

Who can participate?

Youth will compete in teams of 3 or 4 at the Junior, Intermediate and Senior levels*. The three highest scores from a 4-person team are used in competition.  Senior participants must not have been on a previous first-place team. Members of the winning Senior team are not eligible to compete again. Highest scoring individual Seniors may compete again as team members, but cannot score in the individual competition. Each county can register a maximum of 2 Junior, Intermediate and Senior teams of 4, plus two individuals at each age level for a total of 30 participants. Individual youth may compete if there are not enough participants to form a team.

* Age classifications:
Juniors are youth ages 8-10 as of September 1 of the current 4-H program year.
Intermediates are youth ages 11-13 as of September 1 of the current 4-H program year. 
Seniors are youth ages 14-18 as of September 1 of the current 4-H program year.

How do I register?

Teams interested in participating must print and complete the team registration information found on the Florida 4-H website.  Advance registration is mandatory for everyone. Late entries will incur a late fee.  There is a small charge for each youth who is competing in the program, to cover registration, insurance, snacks and drinks. Adults must also register, but do not need to pay.  Youth who are just observing do not have to pay.


How to Prepare

What does my team need to know?

Your contestants need to be able to answer questions at each station in their contest. There are nine stations in all, but not all age groups complete each station. Learn more about each station on the Contest Stations page of this site. All stations are completed individually, except the Senior Quiz Bowl. The list of tree and plant species will no longer rotate each year. Instead, ecosystem-specific species will be tested at the Ecology station.

How can I help my team practice?

UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation faculty, students and staff offer a Forest Ecology Clinic in the fall to help teams prepare for the contest in the spring. Check the Florida 4-H website for more information.

Willie Wood has provided his notes to help youth learn to identify trees and plants.

Several introductory videos are now available to help youth get started. The videos are available in both FLV and MP4 format and you should choose the one that works best on your browser. You may need a Flash player to view the FLV files. If you do not have a flash player, you can download one.


Exploring Florida's natural places with your team is a great way to prepare. Here are a few websites to help you identify places to take your team:


The Day of the Contest


Check-in will be from 8:30 to 9:00 a.m. The contest will begin promptly at 9:00 a.m. when we gather for a welcome and instructions to kick off the day. Youth will be assigned to a group. Each group will circulate through every station. When all contestants have finished the contest, we will open the stations to contestants. Youth and coaches will be able to ask questions about forest plant identification, for example, and learn more about the contest.  Coaches will be able to take plant samples home to start their own collections.

What should we bring?

The organizers will provide snacks but you'll need to bring your own lunch and water bottle. A fountain to fill water bottles is available in the building. Each competitor should bring:

  • a clipboard
  • a pencil
  • lunch
  • water bottle
  • insect repellent
  • sunscreen
  • hat
  • Biltmore stick (Seniors)
  • calculator (Seniors, optional)*
  • compass (Intermediates & Seniors, optional)*

* Calculators and compasses will be provided, but contestants are allowed to bring and use their own if they so choose.

Can parents help?

Yes! The contest is successful becuase of the hard work of volunteers. There are a couple ways you can help. The day of the contest we'll ask parents to volunteer to help groups stay on track by being a chaperone. We'll also need help scoring contestants' answers.


An awards ceremony will be held when all scoring is concluded.  We anticipate this will be between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m.  Everyone will be able to review the stations and ask questions between the conclusion of the competition and the awards ceremony.

All contestants will receive a certificate that verifies their participation. The top three team and individual winners in each age group will receive a ribbon. In addition, the highest scoring Senior team will be eligible to compete in the National 4-H Forestry Invitational. The highest-scoring team among first-year county contestants will also take home a ribbon.  When individual or team scores are tied, winners will be selected by weighting sections of the contest in this order: tree ID, plant ID, ecosystem quiz, insect/disease ID, field quiz, and map/compass.  A $500 scholarship from the University of Florida's School of Forest Resources and Conservation will be offered to the Senior High Scoring Individual of the 4-H Forest Ecology Contest if he or she chooses to enroll at the University of Florida and declares a major in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation.  The scholarship will be renewed for up to 3 additional years if a grade point average of 3.0 is maintained.