The Department of Soil Science provides undergraduate and graduate education in agricultural, environmental, and natural resource aspects of soils. Areas of emphasis include soil ecology; soil erosion and tillage management; soil fertility and plant nutrition; soil physicochemical phenomena; fate of soil contaminants; waste management; water and contaminant transport; pedology; and land-use analysis. Soils are a critical natural resource in environmental protection, food and fiber production, turf and grounds management, rural and urban planning, and waste disposal. All of these facets of soils and soil science are integrated into the department's course offerings and research programs. Soil science majors prepare for professional, technical, consulting and administrative positions in such areas as the environmental sciences, ecology and restoration, crop and timber production, soil survey, and informatics, conservation, environmental pollution control, turf and grounds management, and land-use planning. Contact the department for further information on career opportunities.
Students completing an undergraduate major in soil science earn a bachelor of science degree. A problem-solving "capstone course" that integrates knowledge gleaned from a diversity of courses is required.
The department also serves as the administrative home for the environmental sciences major in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Assistant Professor Francisco Arriaga
Applied Soil Physics, Soil and Water Management and Conservation: Conservation agriculture systems; development of conservation tillage practices that enhance soil quality, soil hydraulic properties, and plant water use through the adoption of cover crops and non- inversion tillage for traditional cropping systems.
Associate Professor Nicholas Balster
Soil Ecology, Plant Physiological Ecology, and Education: Energy and material cycling in natural and anthropogenic soils including forests, grasslands, and urban ecosystems; stable isotope ecology; environmental education; nutrition management of nursery soils; tree physiology, production and response; ecosystem response to global change; urban ecosystem processes; invasive plant ecology; biodiversity.
Professor Phillip Barak
Soil Chemistry and Plant Nutrition: Nutrient cycling; nutrient recovery from wastewater; molecular visualization of soil minerals and molecules; soil acidification.
Professor William Bleam
Surface and Colloid Chemistry: Physical chemistry of soil colloids and sorption processes, chemistry of humic substances, factors controlling biological availability of contaminants to microorganisms, magnetic resonance and synchrotron studies of adsorption and precipitation.
Professor Alfred Hartemink
Pedology, Digital Soil Mapping: Application of fundamental soil science to real-world problems; digital soil mapping; history and philosophy of soil science; pedology, soil survey, and soil information systems.
Professor William Hickey
Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry: Soil microbiology, biodegradation, environmental toxicants, molecular physiology, functional genomics, microbial nanostructure, biotechnology.
Professor Carrie Laboski
Soil Fertility and Nutrient Management: Sustaining agricultural production and environmental quality; elucidate the biogeochemistry and subsequent best management practices for N, P, and K fertilizers and animal manures; soil fertility related to lime, secondary, and micronutrients; evaluation of soil and plant diagnostic tests; development of tools to assist producers, ag. professionals, and regulatory agencies to sustain economically sound production of grain and forage crops.
Professor Sharon Long
Applied Environmental and Public Health Microbiology: Microbial source tracking indicators in watershed management; improving detection and quantification, environmental ecology of indicator organisms and infectious diseases, microbial community structure and function in contaminated systems, microbial safety of wastewater sludge and biosolids, biotreatability assessment.
Professor Joel Pedersen
Environmental Chemistry/Biochemistry: Behavior of organic contaminants, macromolecules, and engineered nanoparticles in natural and engineered environments.
Associate Professor Matthew Ruark
Soil Fertility and Nutrient Management: Soil fertility and management of grain biofuel, and vegetable crops; cover crop management; agricultural production and water quality; sustainability of dairy cropping systems; soil organic matter management.
Professor Douglas Soldat
Turfgrass and Urban Soils: Turfgrass, urban soils, nutrient management, water resources, soil testing, landscape irrigation; soil contamination.
Professor Stephen Ventura
Geographic Information Systems (joint w/Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies): Geographic information systems (GIS), biofuels and production on marginal lands, public participation GIS, urban agriculture, landscape process modeling, soil survey and soil information systems, land and resource tenure, GIS and land use planning.
Assistant Professor Thea Whitman
Soil Ecology, Microbiology, and Biogeochemistry: Soil microbial ecology; organic matter decomposition and carbon stabilization; global environmental change; stable isotopes; linking functional significance of microbial communities with ecosystem processes; fire effects on soil carbon and microbes; management and policy.
Financial support—in the form of approximately 15 scholarships, part-time employment, paid internships, and work-study programs—is available to qualified undergraduate students. The department also provides opportunities and limited financial support in the form of research assistantships to qualified students seeking M.S. and/or Ph.D. degrees (see the Graduate Guide).