Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Soil Scientist: Colby

Meet Colby: Outdoor adventurer, wetland lover, husband and soil enthusiast.

Colby is a soil and wetland scientist living and studying in Raleigh, North Carolina. He grew up on a small family farm in northwest Iowa (USA) where he gained an appreciation for the great outdoors, agriculture, and the natural world.


His interest in wetlands started as a teenager when he went on his first duck hunting adventure with his older brother. Since it was his first time duck hunting he didn't have any waders so he attempted to stay afloat while hunting in the middle of the wetland and walking on knocked-over cattails. This eventually lead to him getting stuck waste-deep in muck (highly decomposed organic material that accumulates in wetlands) with no waders on. This would bug some people, but he actually thought it was pretty cool.

Colby's research site (Juniper Bay)

From then on Colby found wetlands incredibly interesting, so he approached college with the goal of creating a career around wetlands. Colby entered the environmental science bachelors degree program at Iowa State University. There some incredibly enthusiastic professors, Dr. Lee Burras in particular, showed him how interesting soils can be, so Colby enrolled in every soil science class that he could. He also noted how cool it would be to have those professor's jobs - preaching the complexities of soil science, taking students on cool field trips, conducting research on topics that directly impact the environment and agricultural economy around him. A university professor became his dream job. He finished his BS in environmental science in 2008, after which he entered the soil science program at NC State where his current research is a blend of his two academic interests - soils and wetlands.

Colby's field research - collecting root pictures and root zone soil pore water samples of bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)

Colby's works under Dr. Michael Vepraskas researching phosphorus release from wetlands restored on agricultural land. He earned his master of science degree in soil science from NC State in 2010, and is currently about halfway through his doctoral program in the same discipline, also at NC State. Colby's areas of specialization are soil physics, soil and water conservation, and wetland soils. His long term career goal is to enter into a tenure track position at a top research university where he can continue research and teaching in those areas. 

You can read more, learn about soils and wetlands, and follow Colby's work ColbyDigsSoil.com.

All photos are courtesy of Colby Moorberg.

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