The Science of Soil: Why Study Soil?

-[Ella McKinney] I think if you have an interest in environmental issues, i think that soils
are really the place to start. Everything comes back to soil and I think that if you can
understand those processes you can help really make a difference. -[Steve Maestas] One thing that I really like about my
major is that we’re protecting not only the environment, but public health. Right now I work for the environmental
department at NASA and what we’re in charge is the
compliance, the regulatory side of the work that happens at NASA. -[Joel Brown] In USDA, we spend billions of dollars every year on conservation programs, and those conservation programs are all
directed at improving the quality of life for citizens in general, and improving
the sustainability of agriculture. So, we really have to have a working
knowledge of soils that will allow us to understand where
to put certain conservation practices, and you know in any particular landscape
which soils we want to treat first, or which
soils are the most critical. -[Steve] One of the amazing things about soils is they have properties to remove
contaminants from water. What I do here on the University, is we take
soils that are native here to New Mexico and we try to
calculate how much these contaminants they can absorb. So, what I will do is take known weight of these soil particles, mix them with an arsenic solution to see how much
arsenic that the sand can remove. After the experiment is over and the
calculations are made, we also tried to desorb the arsenic from the sand to see if we can reuse that
sand as another filter media. -[Ella] As a student, I got to participate in a soil survey at Glacier National Park in Montana. And, I got to see more of that national park than most people get to see in their entire life. We got to camp out pretty much for
12 weeks. Even just as a science student, it was really cool
looking at the processes that form soil, and digging our holes, and characterizing it, and understanding more about the processes that form the park and management in the area. It’s neat in the lab when I can take soil and culture the microbes and look at
them under the scope and get to see just this world that other people don’t
get to see. I get to see the crystals forming in the soil, the casting carbonate crystals. And it’s just kind of cool getting to see the
processes that make soil do what it does. -[April Ulery] Soil science is often thought of being just agronomy or farming, but it’s more than that. It’s about the environment. It’s about water storage and purification. It’s about climate control. It’s about carbon sequestration. Soil is the key to so many different environmental issues that it’s actually the critical zone
where a lot of the science has come together
and need to be addressed. -[Ella] I really feel that when it
comes to Science and Education, I don’t
feel like there’s a ceiling on that. I think there’s always something to be explored, something to be looked at,
something to be taught. And what I really like about soils is
that it has something–it has some part of every type of science, and there’s literally
nothing you can do with the soils degree.

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