HSU Shows Well at Soils Conference

Humboldt State University Professor Susan Edinger Marshall and Wildland Soils major Rosemary Records presented a poster titled "Soils-Based Evidence for a Former Salt-Marsh; Jarosite and Buried A Horizons (Humboldt County, CA),” at the Soil Science Society of America Meeting in New Orleans, LA.

Anthony Baker, of the Department of Biological Sciences, assisted the undergraduate researchers in isolating a bacterium known to create the yellow-colored mineral, jarosite, which often occurs in drained wetlands and costal marshes.

Jarosite is often associated with Acid Sulfate Soils (ASS), a result of drained coastal areas. Acid sulfate soils are low pH soils that can harm aquatic life and corrode structures.

Fortunately, the local field site where the jarosite was found is not acidified and is being appropriately used for beef cattle production.) Other contributing undergraduate researchers in soil microbiology and soil morphology and classification courses included Marie Petersen, David Risberg, Carrie Alexander and Adam Burdett.

Plenary speakers at the SSSA Annual Meetings included the President of Iceland, Olafur Grimmson speaking on the topic of “The Challenge of Climate Change: Iceland—A Laboratory for Global Solutions” and the President of Bangladesh, Dr. Iajuddin Ahmed, speaking on “Problems of Global Warming, Land Inundation and Arsenic Poisoning.”

HSU alumni in attendance included Dr. Robert Powers, Forest Soils Researcher with the United States Forest Service Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station (Redding); Dr. John M. Stark Professor of Biology at Utah State University; Dr. Christopher Swanston, Research Ecologist with the United States Forest Service Northern Research Station (Houghton, MI); and Dr. Jon Wraith, Professor of Soil and Environmental
Physics at Montana State University (Bozeman). These alumni took soil science courses as part of their degrees in Forestry and Range Resource Science.

Topics at the Soil Science Society meetings ranged from Art to Zinc. Bob Powers reflected on Hans Jenny’s classic evaluation of soils as represented in art, from Gouguin’s tropical soils (look beyond the ladies laden with fruit) to Grant Wood’s Midwestern landscape depictions to Jen Dubuffett’s Art Brut, suggestive of abstract soil horizons. Several sessions addressed the fate of zinc and titanium nanoparticles in the terrestrial environment. In pure culture, nanoparticles may inhibit microbial function, but in soils microorganisms seem to be shielded from their effects.

A special session highlighted the upcoming Smithsonian Exhibit “Explore the Secret Life of Soils” scheduled to open July, 2008 in Washington, D.C. Other soils topics included the question of using forest soils for carbon credits or registries. Soil scientists also presented new developments and technology in teaching at the undergraduate level. Humboldt State University offers an option in Wildland Soils, under the Rangeland Resources Major, that qualifies successful graduates for careers in soil science and soil conservation. HSU graduates more undergraduates in soil science than the University of California (Riverside, Davis and Berkeley, combined).

Jenny, Hans (1968) The image of soil in landscape art, old and new.
Pontifical Academy of Sciences Scripta Varia 32: 947 979. Smithsonian Exhibition.