Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sunday Soil Scientist: Jess B

Meet Jessica Beard: Chemistry maiden, passionate hole digger and Amazon-soil lover.

I started out in college as a Archaeology major, my first semester I took a geomorphology course. We did a unit on soils, and I enjoyed it immensely. I then became a geology major, then began taking more & more soils courses. Then as a research assistant my interest expanded to soil magnetism, and the chemical reactions that transform iron minerals and magnetic mineral grain size and composition. Soil chemistry and mineralogy became an almost obsessive fixation for me at that time, particularly soil firing experiments and magnetic hysteresis. Soil science is such a dynamic discipline, and the ability to impact and observe these phenomena being a soil scientist makes every day at work interesting and challenging.

Jess Beard 

One of my primary areas of interest is soil salinity, which is a tremendous concern in eastern North Dakota, due to an extended 20 year wet cycle, land use changes and extensive flooding of the Red River Of the North. The parent material of Red River Valley soils is intriguing, as it is the lake bottom of glacial Lake Agassiz. As you move west, there are number of beach ridges and deltaic areas from the glacial Elk River. One of my favorite soils is the Bearden series, which is classified taxonomically as fine-silty, mixed, superactive frigid Aeric Calciaquoll. This soil dominates the Red River Valley, a lake bottom, glaciolacustrine soil. Another is the Arvilla series. It predominates the beach ridge areas. Arvilla is a sandy, mixed, frigid Calcic Hapudoll. It is highly prized potato growing land. It is the soil I grew up playing in as a young girl, at. my grandfather's farm is dominated by the Arvilla soil. I also particularly enjoy digging a deep soil pit to look at Vertic soils, those beautiful 'self-swallowing' soils. 

Arvilla soil at Campbell Beach (via Jess B)

My favorite soil however is the Terra Preta de Indio soils of the Amazon- the Amazonian Dark Earths that are highly fertile with an accelerated genesis- an ability to develop at unbelievable rates. This is thought to be due to inoculated charcoal, and holds great promise for carbon sequestration and agriculture worldwide. I encourage you to read more about this fascinating soil.

Soil science is my passion. Why?

Because there is still so much to discover and study, so much is still unknown and the complexity and dynamic phenomena is endless. As a soil scientist you can never be bored, the skin of the earth always has something to show us, and we have much to learn.

Jess now works as a Resource Soil Scientist at the United States Department of Agriculture.

1 comment:

  1. Do you have your own story of soil? Are you willing to share? Email me at jess (dot) drake (at) gmail (dot) com