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Bryan Soil Survey Staff Preview Web Soil Survey to Local Engineering Firm

story by Carlos Villarreal, Richard Reid, Chance Robinson

The Bryan Soil Survey Team requested to participate in a local engineering firms luncheon seminar. The interdisciplinary group of engineers host a monthly brown bag luncheon, in which guest speakers present research and information benefitting the field of engineering. The firm includes structural and civil engineers, hydrologists, geologists, and GIS specialists. The objectives of the seminar were to familiarize the group with usage of Web Soil Survey (WSS) and explain the many facets of soil interpretations.

For Soil Survey Project Leader, Richard Reid, instructing a how-to course for WSS comes without a challenge. Mr. Reid has lectured many on this subject; however, the demonstration duties would be shared with the newest member of the SSO team, Carlos Villarreal. Joining the soil survey staff was Soil Scientist Trainee, Chance Robinson.

While the group of engineers snacked on sandwiches and chips, Richard and Carlos began the demonstration. Questions were raised from the get-go, as the two soil scientists explained the process of choosing an area of interest. The latest version of WSS allows the user to import and export an area of interest shapefile, while retaining the classic navigation methods.

Once an area of interest was selected, the soil map was discussed. The soil scientists described the concepts of map units and their constituents, or map unit components. The area of interest statistics give the user the total acres of the area as well as the individual soil map units that make up the area. The group expressed interest in the amount of documentation, lab data availability, and locations of data collection for each mapunit. Concerns regarding contrasting map unit concepts were fielded; the soil team alleviated their concerns while explaining the current project goals and structure.

The group of engineers shared current projects and gave examples of how soils information could be utilized. The soil data explorer tab was discussed in great detail, as the group of engineers inspected the layout and delivery of data. The soil team answered questions regarding data collection, ecological site inventory, and lab procedures used in acquiring soil performance data. A few important soil properties that are directly utilized by engineers are liquid limit (LL) and plasticity index (PI); both of which are presented for each soil component in the area of interest. Another major topic for discussion of the seminar was the explanation of soil interpretations. WSS offers interpretations in two formats: spatial and tabular. The Suitabilities and Limitations and Soil Properties and Qualities tabs represent the spatial delivery format, while the Soil Reports tab offers tabular delivery of data.

To conclude the presentation, the soil scientists encouraged the group to become more familiar with WSS and provide feedback on how the program could be improved. As business cards and handshakes were exchanged, each group extended an open invitation for further dialogue in providing comments, thoughts, and ideas that could be useful in each field of study.

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