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Research in Urban Soils

Research and development is a critical part of any soil interpretation. The mechanistic soil processes for a foundation for recognizing changes in those processes as soil behavior changes. Inputs to the soil system greatly influence the dynamics of soil processes at a very detailed level and many interactions occur that are difficult to measure. Four major areas of research for interpretations in urban soils are 1) heavy metal toxicity, 2) landscape, hydrology, and related transport of sediment & chemicals, 3) biological transformations of waste/new boundaries, and 4) infiltration linked to heavy use and management.

A systems approach to these research areas is the focus of ecosystem studies, although urban customers often hold deep concerns for specific soil behaviors (lead toxicity, dust inhalation, mud transfer) that are seen as the controlling the whole system. The challenge is to address customer's specific concerns while setting those concerns in the timeframe and the larger context of the ecosystem. Monitoring projects for soils, such as those for streams or water quality, need a base of scientific method so that urban customers can tell when and how they have answered their own questions. The management choices become evident more quickly when the balance of inputs and outputs, sources and sinks, stresses and responses becomes clear to decision-makers.

The goal of scientific research is to recognize an observed problem, to form ideas about causes of the problem, to design and implement a project with specific measurements and observations concerning the problem and suspected causes, and to use the information gathered to revisit the original problem and to test the ideas. Problem-solving with a base in research leads customers to solutions with minimal risk and optimal levels of increased understanding of soil and its role in ecosystem changes.