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2019 Soil Science Collaborative Research Projects

Classifying soils in the field.

15 Projects Selected to Advance NRCS’ Soil Science Capacity

Alcorn State University

Project Title: Serving to Serve: Training the Next Generation of USDA-NRCS UAV Pilots in Soil Conservation Applications

Overview: Alcorn State University plans to address unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) expertise needs by preparing students to become Federal Aviation Administration UAV licensed pilots with training in soil conservation applications. The project will help improve decision making for implementation of soil conservation practices, especially those resulting from natural disasters. UAV real-time data is crucial in developing aftermath soil conservation planning. This project will help address the increasing use of UAV analysis and improve the procedures for solving soil conservation problems with greater efficiency.

Brooklyn College of the City University of New York

Project Title: Development of Soil Survey Methods for Urban Areas

Overview: Brooklyn College of the City University of New York will focus on more efficient methods for conducting urban soil surveys, including the use of Non-intrusive technologies such as ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and electromagnetic induction (EMI) can generate large data sets covering sizeable areas in a relatively short time without the need for borings or excavations.  Through this project, they will evaluate data collected by these new methods with data collected using conventional methods and propose appropriate protocols for adoption by the NRCS, along with recommendations for each method. A database of properties for the selected soils of New York City will be generated and will likely serve as a model to be replicated in urban centers of the U.S. and the world.

Colorado State University

Project Title: Harnessing the Power of the National Cooperative Soil Survey to Inform Science-based Management Decisions for Increased Soil Carbon Sequestration and Soil Health

Overview: Colorado State University will apply statistical modeling techniques to maximize the use of National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS) information to predict carbon sequestration potential based on soil type and conservation practices applied. This work will maximize the use of the NCSS products and provide direct ties between the capacity of soils to sequester carbon and conservation practices. The project will deliver several datasets to be integrated into the current NCSS Soil Characterization Database.

Kansas State University

Project Title: Disaggregating SSURGO soil maps across large areas using existing qualitative knowledge and modern databases

Project Overview: Kansas State University is going to utilize existing data in the USDA Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO) soil maps with Digital Soil Mapping (DSM) techniques to create more detailed maps with higher resolution. More detailed soil maps are required to support the opportunities offered by precision agriculture, and to further finetune conservation efforts.

New Mexico State University

Project Title: Seamless, Regionally-specific Raster Soil Property Maps to Support Interpretations

Overview: New Mexico State University is going to develop a method to develop digital soil property maps to support soil interpretations. The project will utilize DSM with a ground-up approach to predict soil properties using several regionally-specific models, instead of a single global model, which may provide more accurate national-scale predictions.

North Carolina State University

Project Title: Quantification of Blue Carbon Stocks along Salinity Gradients from Tidal Freshwater to Coastal Marine Wetlands in the Southeastern United States

Overview: North Carolina State University has a study underway to quantify the effects of salinization on coastal soil properties, including soil carbon storage and sequestration. An establishment of a baseline for coast carbon storage will allow for more collaborative research efforts across disciplines that are necessary to improve our overall understanding of global sea level rise, and coastal soil system changes.

Purdue University

Project Title: Leveraging Soil Explorer for Soils and Ecological Training

Overview: Purdue University is going to expand the soil map database for Soil Explorer, an educational app for iPad and Android devices, to make it a more useful training tool for use anywhere in the U.S. Soil Explorer pairs transparent maps of soil properties with a highly optimized hill shaded base map that provides a 3D representation of the topography. These maps are powerful teaching and learning tools that allow one to see relationships between soils and geomorphology and to understand why it matters.

University of Arizona

Project Title: Deadly Dust on the Highway - Developing a Dust Risk Index in the Desert Southwest Grounded in Ecological Site Descriptions

Overview: The University of Arizona is working on a project to combat deadly dust storms on Interstate 10 in the desert southwest. They are developing a Dust Risk Index that can be used by the Arizona Department of Transportation and National Weather Service in an early warning system between Phoenix and Tucson. Additionally, the project will utilize NRCS’ existing soil surveys and Ecological Site Descriptions to help identify dust hotspots for the best investment of dust mitigation actions such as mulching and chemical stabilizers.

University of California – Davis

Project Title: Machine-based Algorithms to Automate Soil Taxonomy

Overview: University of California - Davis is developing of a simpler, automated soil taxonomy process that will greatly simplify the task of soil classification. As the classification system is updated, older soil data must be reanalyzed to ensure consistency with taxonomic standards. An automated system will streamline soil survey updates with improved accuracy.

University of Massachusetts – Amherst

Project Title: Development and Application of PXRF Protocols to Potentially Hazardous Metals in Soils of Urban Forests and Gardens

Overview: The University of Massachusetts-Amherst is going to develop and apply Portable X-ray Fluorescence (PXRF) technology to quickly assess trace metal concentrations in urban soil. This information will help city planners better understand and address environmental issues associated with potentially hazardous metals in soil.

University of Tennessee – Knoxville

Project Title: Predicting Controls on Soil Organic Carbon Storage and Loss in State and Transition Models in Critical Ecological Sites across Tennessee

Overview: University of Tennessee – Knoxville is going to partner with NRCS Soil Survey staff to quantify dynamic soil properties in key ecological sites across the state of Tennessee. The purpose is to measure how the soil chemical, physical, and biological properties that control soil organic carbon stocks vary in relation to soil taxonomy and ecosystem state.

University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley

Project Title: Building Soil Science Capacity through Research at UT Rio Grande Valley, a Premier Hispanic Serving Institution in South Texas

Overview: University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), a Hispanic Serving Institution, is looking to expand its soil science research and educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, a key area for agriculture production with a 90 percent Hispanic population. Through participatory research, the Kika de la Garza Science Fellowship program, technical assistance, training and outreach events, the UTRGV is providing students and producers experiences that prepare them to meet the challenges and opportunities related to agricultural, food, and natural resources.

University of Wyoming

Project Title: Development of Immersive Virtual Reality Experiences in the Ecosystem Sciences

Overview: The University of Wyoming is working on a 3-D virtual reality experience that will transport users to ecosystems that cannot be easily visited. The modules will be used to engage users to investigate a variety of ecosystems and link the effects of above and underground processes on the landscape. This allows us to teach and show others in ways we haven’t been able to before.

University of Wyoming

Project Title: Quantification of Redoximorphic Feature Expression in Seasonally Saturated Soils

Overview: The University of Wyoming is going to utilize existing soil data to develop models of wet soil indicators to examine soil physical and biogeochemical properties. Collection and analysis of these data will improve our understanding of features created as a result of saturated conditions in the soil.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Project Title: Estimating Blue Carbon Stocks in Coastal Marshes to Enhance NRCS Soil Surveys

Overview: The National Coastal Blue Carbon Assessment, a nationwide NRCS effort, recognizes that estimating blue carbon stocks is needed to improve Coastal Zone Soil Surveys. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science is going to utilize their extensive regional tidal marsh and GIS experience and collaborate with NRCS soil scientists to estimate blue carbon (underwater soil carbon) stocks in tidal marshes in coastal Virginia and North Carolina.