8 March 2011

Introducing Jessica Drake

Posted by John Freeland

Jessica Drake speaking of soils.

One of the best parts of being an earth scientist is exchanging perspectives with others who share our subject interests, and live and work in far-away places much different than our own. Since elementary school, I’ve been interested in Australia, so when I found and read Jessica Drake’s blog, Soilduck, I added it to Terra Central’s sidebar right away.

Jessica is a Ph.D. candidate at the Fenner School of Enviornment and Society at the Australian National University in Canberra. Jessica will be posting here from time to time and I’ll do the same in return at Soilduck. Jessica shares a bit of her story, below. I hope others will join me in welcoming Jessica to the AGU Blogosphere! (JF)

Jessica writes:

Soil science was far from my first choice at uni, and yet here I am doing a PhD on soil!

It was my second year of uni when I first came across soil. I shifted over to a course on soil after another was cancelled. I was doubtful about learning about soil. How could it possibly be interesting? Why would they teach four whole courses about soil? Isn’t it just that stuff under your feet? Why am I even doing this? Will it be a waste of my time? I was so worried about being bored…

Instead, I had an unexpected response. Something stirred in me as I sat through my first lecture. It wasn’t boring or dull. I could see why they teach so many courses. I began to realise how fascinating and complex it was; a cross between geology, biology, physics and environment. You had to think about management and people: agriculture, forestry, erosion, policy. It is what grows our food, cleans our water and keeps us alive. It was that day that I was forever captured in the complexity of the soil web.

Since that lecture, I have focused on a career in soils and can hardly believe where it has taken me! I have written soil and erosion guidelines for government; organised helicopter revegetation; lived in the Solomon Islands; been involved with some of the biggest erosion works in Australia; planned bushfire restoration; liaised with some of the best soil scientists and involved in the Soil Science of Australia society. Now I am in the final year of a PhD where I am researching methods for restoring and measuring soil nutrient cycling in mine site rehabilitation.

Jess with an English elm (Ulmus procera)

I have to admit that I wouldn’t have been drawn into soil science if it wasn’t for my lecturer, and now mentor, John. He has this way of making soil the most interesting thing you could ever learn. And with this in mind, I aim to make soil science more available to everyone, and to inspire people to learn about soil in the same way John inspired me.