Having never taken a geology or earth science course before I thought it would be a good idea to use my elective space for Introduction to Soils. In general soil is not something I had ever thought a great deal about, except in relation to agriculture and runoff. So, getting to learn about the formation and evolution of soil types has been eye-opening to say the least. It is a complex field of study, with an incredible amount of variables. The class originally attracted me because of the implications soils have on construction and architecture. You can’t build a building and be certain it will last 50 years, without understanding what you are building on. Pertinent to this, I am conducting research on the strength of certain soil particle sizes in the hopes that I can understand what types of soils, generally, are good to build on. For instance, sand sized particles are obviously not going to be a strong surface to build on, but if mixed with a certain proportion of clay sized particles (compact and stick together well) could that sand become a strong building surface.
Beyond this research I have gained an appreciation for those who conduct soil surveys, because after reading through some of the literature and taxonomic guides I have found it is something that takes years of very specialized work to understand and be good at. These scientists also may have their work cut out for them as we being to see wetter soils and shifting landscapes due to flooding, fires, and inundation.
Having already taken global climate change, this semester I am taking chemistry of earth systems and Introduction to Soils with the mosaic. While these courses are not directly related to climate change, they are providing a great balance with the mosaic.
In chemistry of earth systems we are learning about chemical reactions and different techniques to get at compositions of rocks including XRD and XRF analysis (pictures of our machines at right). Geo chem, as we like to call it, is giving me a great background in the chemistry of how the earth works. We are learning about reactions that are fundamental to keeping the planet’s systems in check (i.e. weathering reactions).
Soils class is a very nice complement to geo chem as it is providing a great understanding of clays, soil structure and soil composition. We frequently get to go on field trips (picture left) to see different parts of the valley and learn about how soils are important to our lives. The most relevant part of the course for climate change is my independent research project. I will be studying how soil development begins with deglaciation. You may be wondering how I am going to do this in Carlisle, but the answer is simple, tombstones. I will be dating lichen and developing a growth curve to see how quickly lichen are growing in this environment. The tombstones represent my recently glaciated rock and will allow the analogous study. Picture below shows an environmental that was recently glaciated (Greenland) and is now becoming populated with lichens, which will build to develop soil.
I am looking forward to further engaging in this course work and developing a great understanding of earth systems.