cals-soilscience

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.

To declare this major, students must be admitted to UW–Madison and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). For information about becoming a CALS first-year or transfer student, see Entering the College.

Students who attend Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have the option to declare this major at SOAR.  Students may otherwise declare after they have begun their undergraduate studies. For more information, contact the advisor listed under the Advising and Careers tab.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Requirements

In addition to the University General Education Requirements, all undergraduate students in CALS must satisfy a set of college and major requirements. Specific requirements for all majors in the college and other information on academic matters can be obtained from the Office of Academic Affairs, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, 116 Agricultural Hall, 1450 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-3003. Academic departments and advisors also have information on requirements. Courses may not double count within university requirements (General Education and Breadth) or within college requirements (First-Year Seminar, International Studies and Science), but courses counted toward university requirements may also be used to satisfy a college and/or a major requirement; similarly, courses counted toward college requirements may also be used to satisfy a university and/or a major requirement.

College Requirements for all CALS B.S. Degree Programs

Quality of Work: Students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.000 to remain in good standing and be eligible for graduation.
Residency: Students must complete 30 degree credits in residence at UW–Madison after earning 86 credits toward their undergraduate degree.
First Year Seminar1
International Studies3
Physical Science Fundamentals4-5
General Chemistry I
Chemistry in Our World
Advanced General Chemistry
Biological Science5
Additional Science (Biological, Physical, or Natural)3
Science Breadth (Biological, Physical, Natural, or Social)3
CALS Capstone Learning Experience: included in the requirements for each CALS major (see "Major Requirements")

Major Requirements

Courses may not double count within the major (unless specifically noted otherwise), but courses counted toward the major requirements may also be used to satisfy a university requirement and/or a college requirement. A minimum of 15 credits must be completed in the major that are not used elsewhere.

Mathematics and Statistics
Select one of the following courses:3-5
Algebra
Algebra and Trigonometry
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry I 1
Select one of the following courses:3-4
Introductory Statistics for Engineers
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences (recommended)
Statistical Methods for Bioscience I
Chemistry
Select one of the following options:5-9
Option 1:
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II
Option 2:
Advanced General Chemistry
Biology
Select one of the following options:10
Option 1 (recommended):
General Botany 2
Animal Biology
Animal Biology Laboratory
Option 2:
Introductory Biology
Introductory Biology
Option 3:
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory
Cellular Biology
Cellular Biology Laboratory
Core
SOIL SCI 301 General Soil Science4
SOIL SCI 325 Soils and Landscapes3
Select one of the following courses:3
Soils and Environmental Chemistry
Soil Chemistry
Plant Nutrition Management
Mineral Nutrition of Plants
Select one of the following courses:3
Physical Principles of Soil and Water Management
Soil Physics
Select one of the following courses:3
Soil Biology
Environmental Microbiology
Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry
Specialization
Students must complete 1 of 3 specializations: 1. Environmental Soil Science 2. Soil and Food Systems 3. Turf and Grounds (see below)28-51
Capstone 3
Select one of the following courses:3-4
Soil Management 4
Assessment of Environmental Impact
Decision Methods for Natural Resource Managers
Total Credits68-99
1

Note that MATH 171 & MATH 217 must be taken as a sequence.

2

BOTANY/​BIOLOGY  130 is required by the Turf and Grounds Track.

3

Consult advisor to request permission to substitute another course for the Capstone requirement. Course must meet CALS Capstone Characteristics described in the Undergraduate Catalog and be approved by advisor and 116 Ag Hall.

4

SOIL SCI 499 capstone required for Turf and Grounds Track.

Specializations Within the Major

Environmental Soil Science

Mathematics
Select one of the following courses: 5
Calculus
Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II
Physics
Select one of the following courses:4-5
General Physics (recommended)
General Physics
General Physics
General Physics
Chemistry
Select one of the following options:4-8
Option 1:
Chemistry Across the Periodic Table
Fundamentals of Analytical Science
Fundamentals of Analytical Science
Option 2:
Elementary Organic Chemistry
and Elementary Organic Chemistry Laboratory
Option 3:
Introductory Organic Chemistry
and Introductory Organic Chemistry Laboratory
and Intermediate Organic Chemistry
Physical Environment6-8
Select one course from the following:
Weather and Climate
Weather and Climate
Earth's Water: Natural Science and Human Use
Introduction to the Earth System
Physical Systems of the Environment
Environmental Geology
Introduction to Geologic Structures
Soils and Environmental Chemistry
Plant Nutrition Management
Select at least one course from the following:
Geomorphology
Climatology
Science of Climate Change
Analysis of the Physical Environment
Soils and Environmental Quality
Soils of the World
Urban Soil and Environment
Soil Chemistry
Soil Physics
Mineral Nutrition of Plants
Environmental Biophysics
Principles of Landscape Ecology
GIS Applications
Living Environment9-14
Select one course from the following:
Principles and Practices in Crop Production
Cropping Systems
People, Land and Food: Comparative Study of Agriculture Systems
Limnology-Conservation of Aquatic Resources
Fruit Crop Production
World Vegetable Crops
Study Abroad in Agroecology
Grassland Ecology
Environmental Microbiology
Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry
Select one course from the following:
General Ecology
Forest Ecology
and Forest Ecology Lab
Principles of Genetics
Plant Physiology
Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry
Genetics Laboratory
Phylogenetic Analysis of Molecular Data
Mineral Nutrition of Plants
Toxicants in the Environment: Sources, Distribution, Fate, & Effects
Select one of the following options:
Option 1:
General Microbiology
and General Microbiology Laboratory
Option 2:
Biology of Microorganisms
and Biology of Microorganisms Laboratory
Option 3:
Algae
and Fungi
Environmental Policy, Management, and Analysis9-12
Select one of the following courses:
Forum on the Environment
Environmental Studies: The Social Perspective
Environmental Studies: The Humanistic Perspective
Principles of Environmental Science
Physical Systems of the Environment
Decision Methods for Natural Resource Managers
Assessment of Environmental Impact
Human Transformations of Earth Surface Processes
Ecosystem Analysis
Select one of the following courses:
Principles of Microeconomics
Principles of Economics-Accelerated Treatment
Introduction to Agricultural and Applied Economics
The Environment and the Global Economy
The International Agricultural Economy
Environmental Law, Toxic Substances, and Conservation
Select one of the following courses:
Introduction to Environmental Remote Sensing
Intermediate Environmental Remote Sensing
Applications of Geographic Information Systems in Natural Resources
Total Credits37-52

Soil and Food Systems

Physical Environment8-10
Select one of the following courses:
Weather and Climate
Earth's Water: Natural Science and Human Use
Weather and Climate
Introduction to the Earth System
Physical Systems of the Environment
General Geology
Environmental Geology
Soils and Environmental Quality
Soils and Environmental Chemistry
Plant Nutrition Management
Environmental Biogeochemistry
Urban Soil and Environment
Select one of the following courses:
Geomorphology
Climatology
Science of Climate Change
Analysis of the Physical Environment
Soils of the World
Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry
Ecosystem Analysis
Principles of Landscape Ecology
GIS Applications
GIS and Spatial Analysis
Environmental Biogeochemistry
Soil Chemistry
Soil Physics
Mineral Nutrition of Plants
Select one of the following courses:
Introduction to Environmental Remote Sensing
Intermediate Environmental Remote Sensing
Applications of Geographic Information Systems in Natural Resources
Economics and Food Management6-8
Select one of the following courses:
Introductory Financial Accounting
Introductory Managerial Accounting
Accounting Principles
Financial Reporting I
Taxation: Concepts for Business and Personal Planning
Introduction to Agricultural and Applied Economics
Farming Systems Management
Commodity Markets
Cooperatives
Agricultural Finance
Economic Decision Analysis
Economic Problems of Developing Areas
Human Resource Management
Compensation: Theory and Administration
Personnel Staffing and Evaluation
Labor-Management Relations
Select one of the following courses:
Principles of Microeconomics
Principles of Economics-Accelerated Treatment
Introductory Financial Accounting
Introductory Managerial Accounting
Accounting Principles
Financial Reporting I
Taxation: Concepts for Business and Personal Planning
Farming Systems Management
Commodity Markets
Cooperatives
Agricultural Finance
Economic Decision Analysis
Economic Problems of Developing Areas
Environmental Microbiology
Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry
Human Resource Management
Compensation: Theory and Administration
Personnel Staffing and Evaluation
Labor-Management Relations
Specialized Sciences (complete all) 1
AGRONOMY 100 Principles and Practices in Crop Production3-4
or HORT 120 Survey of Horticulture
AGRONOMY 300 Cropping Systems3
or AGRONOMY 302 Forage Management and Utilization
or HORT 345 Fruit Crop Production
AGRONOMY/HORT/SOIL SCI 326 Plant Nutrition Management3
PL PATH 300 Introduction to Plant Pathology2-4
or ENTOM 351 Principles of Economic Entomology
or PL PATH/​ENVIR ST/​M&ENVTOX  368 Environmental Law, Toxic Substances, and Conservation
A A E 215 Introduction to Agricultural and Applied Economics3
or A A E/​ENVIR ST  244 The Environment and the Global Economy
or A A E 319 The International Agricultural Economy
or A A E/​AGRONOMY/​INTER-AG/​NUTR SCI  350 World Hunger and Malnutrition
Total Credits28-35
1

 Some courses may fulfill GEN ED requirements.

Turf and Grounds

Physical Environment
Select one of the following courses:3
Weather and Climate
Weather and Climate
Earth's Water: Natural Science and Human Use
Introduction to the Earth System
Physical Systems of the Environment
General Geology
Environmental Geology
Core Turf and Grounds Sciences (complete all)
ACCT I S 300 Accounting Principles3
BOTANY/​BIOLOGY  130 General Botany 15
HORT/​PL PATH  261 Sustainable Turfgrass Use and Management2
M H R 305 Human Resource Management3
PL PATH 300 Introduction to Plant Pathology4
HORT/SOIL SCI 332 Turfgrass Nutrient and Water Management3
Specialized Sciences 7
Select 7 credits from the following courses:
Dendrology
Landscape Plants I
Land Surveying Fundamentals
Operating and Management Principles of Off-Road Vehicles
Principles of Economic Entomology
Survey of Horticulture
Turfgrass Management Laboratory
Advanced Turfgrass Management and Physiology
1

 Counts toward Soil Science Major Biology requirements, above.

Honors in the Major

To earn Honors in the Major, students are required to take at least 20 honors credits. In addition, students must take SOIL SCI 681 Senior Honors Thesis and SOIL SCI 682 Senior Honors Thesis when completing their thesis project; please see the Honors in Major Checklist for more information.

University Degree Requirements 

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.

Learning Outcomes

  1. To instill in our undergraduate majors the knowledge base required for them to intelligently discuss, debate and communicate those aspects of soil science pertinent to their degree, specialization and career goals.
  2. To provide our undergraduates with the skills and experience needed to identify and solve problems and issues of the types they may encounter in their professions.
  3. To ensure that our undergraduates possess an awareness of and an appreciation for the potential impacts of soil, water, crop and waste management practices, and land use on the quality of the environment.

Four-year plan

Sample Soil Science Four-Year Plan—Soil & Food Systems Specialization; Turf and Ground Specialization

Freshman
FallCreditsSpringCredits
CHEM 103 or 1094-5CHEM 1045
MATH 114 or 1715ETHNIC STUDIES3
FIRST YEAR SEMINAR1ELECTIVES7-8
COMM-A/ELECTIVES3-4 
 13-15 15-16
Total Credits 28-31
Sophomore
FallCreditsSpringCredits
BOTANY/​BIOLOGY  130 or ZOOLOGY 15115ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY  101
ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY  102
5
SOIL SCI 3014COMM-B/ELECTIVES3
INTERNATIONAL STUDIES3SPECIALIZATION COURSE4-5
ELECTIVES3ELECTIVES3
 15 15-16
Total Credits 30-31
Junior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
SOIL SCI 3213SOIL SCI 3223
SOIL SCI 3253SOIL SCI/​PL PATH  3233
STATISTICS3SPECIALIZATION COURSES/ELECTIVES9-10
SPECIALIZATION COURSE/ELECTIVES3 
 12 15-16
Total Credits 27-28
Senior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
SOIL SCI 499 (Capstone)3SPECIALIZATION COURSES/ELECTIVES15-16
SPECIALIZATION COURSES/ELECTIVES12 
 15 15-16
Total Credits 30-31
1

 Botany 130 and Zoo 101/102 is required for Turf and Grounds Track.

Sample Soil Science Four-Year Plan—Environmental Soil Science Specialization

Freshman
FallCreditsSpringCredits
CHEM 103 or 1094-5CHEM 1045
MATH 114 or 1715ETHNIC STUDIES3
FIRST YEAR SEMINAR1ELECTIVES7-8
COMM-A/ELECTIVES3-4 
 13-15 15-16
Total Credits 28-31
Sophomore
FallCreditsSpringCredits
BOTANY/​BIOLOGY  130 or ZOOLOGY 1515ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY  101
ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY  102
5
SOIL SCI 3014Specialization Course4-5
INTERNATIONAL STUDIES3ELECTIVES3
ELECTIVES3COMM-B/ELECTIVES3
 15 15-16
Total Credits 30-31
Junior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
SOIL SCI 3213SOIL SCI 3223
SOIL SCI 3253SOIL SCI/​PL PATH  3233
SPECIALIZATION COURSES/ELECTIVES3SPECIALIZSTION COURSES/ELECTIVES9-10
STATISTICS3 
 12 15-16
Total Credits 27-28
Senior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
SOIL SCI 499 (Capstone)3SPECIALIZATION COURSES/ELECTIVES15-16
SPECIALIZATION COURSES/ELECTIVES12 
 15 15-16
Total Credits 30-31

Advising and Careers

Students are assigned a faculty advisor once they declare the major. Prospective students should contact the undergraduate coordinator, Julie Garvin (jgarvin2@wisc.edu, 608-262-2239), with questions.

Most of our graduates find employment in a diversity of private and commercial enterprises and governmental agencies. Recent examples of employment include laboratory technician, turf and grounds manager, agrichemical sales representative, environmental scientist, land use planner, land zoning administrator, project manager, soil surveyor, and hydrogeologist. Approximately 12 percent of our undergraduates pursue advanced degrees.

Faculty

Assistant Professor Francisco Arriaga—farriaga@wisc.edu

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 Balsternjbalster@wisc.edu

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 Barakpwbarak@wisc.edu

Soil Chemistry and Plant Nutrition: Nutrient cycling; nutrient recovery from wastewater; molecular visualization of soil minerals and molecules; soil acidification.

Professor William Bleamwfbleam@wisc.edu

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 Harteminkhartemink@wisc.edu

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 Hickeywjhickey@wisc.edu

Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry: Soil microbiology, biodegradation, environmental toxicants, molecular physiology, functional genomics, microbial nanostructure, biotechnology.

Professor Carrie Laboskilaboski@wisc.edu

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 Longslong@wisc.edu

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 Pedersenjoelpedersen@wisc.edu

Environmental Chemistry/Biochemistry: Behavior of organic contaminants, macromolecules, and engineered nanoparticles in natural and engineered environments.

Professor J. Mark Powelljmpowel2@wisc.edu

Agroecology/Soil Fertility/International Agriculture: Environmental impacts of ruminant livestock, nutrient cycling, effects of livestock manure on soil nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon cycling and crop productivity; integrated nutrient management on dairy farms.

Associate Professor Matthew Ruarkmdruark@wisc.edu

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.

Associate Professor Douglas Soldatdjsoldat@wisc.edu

Turfgrass and Urban Soils—Turfgrass, urban soils, nutrient management, water resources, soil testing, landscape irrigation; soil contamination.

Professor Stephen Venturasventura@wisc.edu

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, land-scape process modeling, soil survey and soil information systems, land and resource tenure, GIS and land use planning.

Assistant Professor Thea Whitmantwhitman@wisc.edu

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.

Resources and scholarships

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. andor Ph. D. degrees—see the Graduate Guide.