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Help students think like soil scientists
Date:9/28/2009

MADISON, WI, SEPTEMBER 28, 2009 -- Emphasizing cross-disciplinary concepts in teaching soil science courses, such as mass-volume relationships, can help undergraduates learn real-world, problem-solving skills that are crucial to their success in soil science careers.

Drs. Josh Heitman and Michael Vepraskas, North Carolina State University Soil Science Department, highlighted this need for quantitative measurement skills in an article detailing the importance of teaching mass and volume relationships at the undergraduate level. The article is published in the recent issue of the Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education.

Basic physical concepts, such as mass and volume relationships, are found throughout different scientific disciplines. This provides a framework for cross-disciplinary communication that should be emphasized in undergraduate soils training. For soils students to develop these skills, undergraduate course work highlighting quantitative ways to characterize and describe soils is critical. Soil science-specific terminology can, and should, be maintained, but fundamental, cross-disciplinary definitions must be emphasized so that the terminology is clearly connected to what it means.

Subsidence (i.e. loss of horizon thickness) can provide a clear example to emphasize basic mass-volume concepts for problem solving in soils courses. Drainage of wetland soils for agriculture and other purposes has been a common practice for many years. However, drainage of organic soils results in subsidence through shrinkage, loss of buoyancy, and oxidation of organic matter. More recently, much work has focused on restoration of wetland soils to their original natural condition. Discussing restoration of an organic wetland soil can provide a practical problem solving lesson for teaching about subsidence and mass-volume relationships.

The question of how much the soil has subsided is important to consider. Res
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Contact: Sara Uttech
suttech@agronomy.org
608-268-4948
American Society of Agronomy
Source:Eurekalert

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