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8 October 2014

Symphony of the Soil is a Beautiful Film Documentary

I can’t say enough about this film made by Deborah Garcia. Symphony of the Soil is available here through October 10 for free viewing. The film has wonderful macro and micro videography and a tremendous sound track. The passion these scientists providing narrative have for their subject comes through loud and clear. I try to stay away from superlatives, but can’t help it with this documentary. Watch the film. If …

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17 August 2014

Soil Connections: Drought, Dust and Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

An unfortunate sequence of events involving drought, depleted water resources, wastewater management, antibiotic resistant bacteria (ABR) and dust storms may pose a real health risk in desert states – and, perhaps, beyond. Briefly, here’s the sequence of steps, beginning with drought and ending with a respiratory infection: 1. Arid states can’t grow everything they want with what little rainfall they get – so they irrigate. 2. Limited fresh water used …

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24 November 2013

On Site Wastewater Disposal Systems: Soil Considerations

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 1990 there were 24.67 million residences serviced by on-site waste disposal (OSWD) systems, representing 24.1 percent of the total number of households. The highest concentration of OSWD systems is found in the New England states where Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont have about 50% of their households using them. That number has surely grown, but, unfortunately, 1990 data is the most up-to-date …

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28 April 2013

The Gas We Eat

Nearly half of the world’s population owes its existence to food grown with industrial nitrogen fertilizer produced from natural gas. (1) In 2004, journalist Richard Manning published an intriguing, if somewhat controversial, article in Harpers magazine called The Oil We Eat: Tracing the food chain back to Iraq. Manning notes that growing our food under the usual practices requires about 10 calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of …

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17 November 2012

Ken Burns Presents “The Dust Bowl” on PBS

This coming Sunday and Monday nights (November 18-19), PBS is featuring the Ken Burns documentary, The Dust Bowl. Burns calls it “the greatest man-made ecological disaster in Unites States history… A ten-year apocalypse superimposed over the worst economic cataclysm in our nation’s history, the Great Depression.” From an article by James West at the Atlantic: As the East Coast licks its wounds from superstorm Sandy, many in New York and …

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19 July 2012

Introducing the European Geoscience Union – Soil Systems Science Division

The European Geoscience Union, a leader in the free dissemination of scientific research, has rolled out its Soil Systems Science Division (SSSD). The SSSD has a blog newsletter with some fine articles and beautiful images about soils and surface geology of Europe. When Editor Jessica Drake (Soilduck) kindly invited me to write a short “why I do soil science” biographical piece, I jumped at the chance. Being that I’m American, …

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28 November 2011

Using Thermogravimetry for Carbon Accounting

Thermogravimetry-Derivative Thermogravimetry (TG/DTG) is a simple and inexpensive method to account for recent soil carbon sequestration. As such, it’s a good choice to be a standardized test in international carbon trading markets. More about TG/DTG shortly, but first, why is this important? Background Here in the United States, clearly, any federal legislation that seeks to reduce carbon emissions, such as by taxation or carbon trading, has no chance of getting through …

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1 June 2011

New Soil Blogs

Years ago, a fellow geology major and friend who went on to graduate school to focus on structural geology and tectonics liked to “razz” those of us interested in surficial processes, dismissing it all as “superficial geology.” In rebuttal, someone would remind him that structure and tectonics are only significant to the extent those things are expressed at or near Earth’s surface where we all try to make a living. …

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19 January 2011

Barnegat Bay Restoration Plan Addresses Nuke Cooling System and Soil Compaction

Barnegat Bay and Oyster Creek Generating Station. Photo by Andrew Bossi CC. Last month, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie unveiled a plan to improve the ecologic health of Barnegat Bay, which includes coastal areas of Orange County. According to thegovmonitor.com “The goal is to restore, protect and enhance Barnegat Bay, which has been suffering,” said (Department of Environmental Protection) Commissioner Martin. “We are dealing with problems that have been long …

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9 December 2010

Goal: Harness Energy Without Losing Air, Soil, and Water Quality

Energy extraction, including drilling and mining, is one sector of our economy that’s has been especially damaging to soils, like those near the oil sands operations in Alberta shown in the above photo. As a soil scientist, I’m interested in sustainable land use that recognizes the life-supporting services of healthy soils. That means, to the extent feasible and practicable, our infrastructure, agriculture, and energy systems need to preserve the fundamental …

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