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Soil Science & Conservation

“Many people regard soil as an unexciting conglomeration of inert mineral particles and decaying vegetation . . . . Little wonder, then, that it is often called ‘dirt.’” (Philip F. Low) Do you know anyone who has this view? Have you ever wondered what could be so interesting about soil that would cause teams of scientists to study it?

Here at NRES, we recognize that soil is a world in itself! Soil science research at NRES has demonstrated that mineral surfaces are chemically dynamic in a way that changes with space and time, imparting a high water-holding capacity and a strong buffering capacity against foreign chemicals. We study the unique and broad chemical functionality of soil organic matter, which allows it to bind metals, solvate species of biogenic origin, and provide key ingredients for biological processes. Nutrient cycles, including those of nitrogen and carbon, and the fate of fertilizers and pesticides are highly dependent on the type and amount of organic matter and clay minerals that are present. Microbial communities create microcosms teeming with synergistic biogeochemical processes that link all soil constituents together. Weathering and hydrology catalyze soil formation and transformation. All these factors together help determine the classification of a soil and inform scientists and managers regarding land values and the best use and management practices. Even though robust, the soil resource often is degraded by poor management. Soils research at NRES leads us towards conservation of this key natural resource that is critical to the survival of mankind.

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