On September 20, 2013, Peter Whitcomb taught two sections of Professor Serita Frey's UNH Intro to Soils classes. Over 50 students were treated to Peter's 30-year wealth and breadth of experience as he covered his years mapping soils in the Southwest, Minnesota and New Hampshire.
Peter's presentation was part geological history, part soil science, and part Sherlock Holmes mystery (from a Soil Science perspective). "Mapping soil is like putting a puzzle together. You have to figure out what happened to make the soil the way it is. And, if you know your landforms, you'll know your soils", Peter explained. He showed the myriad of techniques used to determine soils across a region including topography, landforms, parent material, water table and other features like color, bedrock, and even the shape of rocks in a stone wall. He explained that old soil surveys stressed the importance of understanding soil composition in agriculture, but current ones include data for foresters and developers as well. While "no map is pure and can have inclusions of different soils, the information is incredibly helpful if you know how to read and interpret it", said Peter while explaining how to understand and find all the information the NRCS makes available to the public to know what soils they have on their land. "But", he said, "there are always exceptions to the rules so, ultimately, you just have to dig".