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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fungi in an artspace near you

I am pretty excited!

There is a new exhibition in Canberra called:


Mycologia: The Secret Life of Fungi - Jenny Manning


Fungi are amazingly beautiful and complex! They are in all sorts of colours, textures, shapes and sizes. And for anyone following my blog for awhile, you would know I love them. 


Thanks to Lee who sent me the link! I can't wait to go and check out this great piece of science art.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Soil Scientist: Andi

Why did you become a soil soil scientist? 

Was it your childhood? A passion? A want to change the world? Were you inspired?

I will be posting, when I have willing scientists, Sunday shorts on why they became a soil scientist.

In the meantime, let me introduce you to Andi.



Andi Halliday - Soil Scientist, Forest Lover, Bushfire Fighter


Being surrounded by bush, going bushwalking and exploring as a child, and later on being involved as a volunteer bush fire fighter, there is no doubt as to how and why Andi became a scientist.

Starting a career in IT, Andi quickly realised his passions laid elsewhere; in environmental science. He pursued an undergraduate and honours degree to change careers. His passion lies in forestry and soil, as well as sustainable agriculture and food security. He wants to work on positive sustainable development  and a healthy happy future for all.

I recently visited Andi, and I was lucky enough to get a personal tour of some of his favourite bush. This is what inspires him to care for and understand the environment:


 From the mountains to the ocean...


... there is certainly some amazing soil. Look at that mottle!


And, I finally got to see some Flax Flowers...


... and beautiful Angophora trees.


And so many beautiful flowers. 


Andi has always loved the environment, and growing up surrounded by bush it is no wonder. 


Why did you become a soil scientist? If you want to share your story, please message me below or email me at jess (dot) drake (at) gmail (dot) com :)