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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Pedology: changes in the science, changes in the profession

item Bryant, Ray
item Drohan, Patrick
item Stolt, Mark

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/27/2012
Publication Date: 10/21/2012
Citation: Bryant, R.B., Drohan, P., Stolt, M. 2012. Pedology: changes in the science, changes in the profession[abstract]. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts. Paper No. 135-1.

Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.

Technical Abstract: The anthropocene can be characterized in part as a period of rising public awareness of the anthropogenic effects on the environment, exponential increases in knowledge and information, and an expanding role of policy makers in determining research agendas. These factors have had profound impacts on science. We explore the transformations that have occurred in both the science of pedology and the profession of pedology. Three overarching changes have been: 1) pedologists, while always having conducted research on anthropogenic effects on soils, now often make such research a major focus; 2) the tools that scientists use to explore pedology are much more sophisticated, powerful and expensive, and 3) fewer classically trained pedologists are doing pedology. With the completion of soil survey in the developed and much of the developing world, pedologists are turning toward studies of the interactions between anthropogenic activities and soil processes to address environmental problems and enhance the relevance of their work. New tools such as Pb(210), Cs(137), and artifacts to date recent layers have provided the means for learning a lot about soil processes and rates of change. We can determine how fast C is sequestered in a soil by indices of land use change; we can estimate sea level rise. In spite of these advances, a decline in classically trained pedologists is in part due to changes in research priorities and competition for funding that have spawned the expansion of new scientific fields and their sub-specializations that are viewed as more responsive to immediate political agendas. A rediscovery and re-branding of what pedologists do by these emerging scientific fields, and a lack of interest in "hard" science classes may be deterring students from entering the field. Pedologists must embrace these new disciplines, collaborate so that their contribution is directly recognized by funding bodies and political supporters, and be the loudest voice for why classical pedology training matters.

Last Modified: 06/27/2017
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