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TSSH Part 622

The Role of the Resource Soil Scientist in Support of Soil Survey

Background (622.00)

The resource soil scientist helps users to understand, apply, and integrate soil survey information with resources and technology. The role of the resource soil scientist in soil survey is important for the success of the Agency in meeting customer needs for technical soil services and in soil survey operations.

The resource soil scientist can assist with production soil survey activities through direction and coordination with the MLRA Soil Survey Offices and the State Soil Scientist (SSS).

The general structure of soil survey offices where resource soil scientists will provide soil survey support in staff functions and survey operations is as follows:

Major Land Resource Area Soil Survey Regional Office (MO) and State Office—Statewide technical soil services to provide customer and program support and coordination of production soil survey

MLRA Soil Survey Office (SSO)Production and quality control of soil surveys for an assigned multi-county/multi-state geographic area

The amount of time a resource soil scientist spends on soil survey activities is at the discretion of the supervisor and the State Conservationist but generally should not exceed about 20 percent of a resource soil scientist’s time. The SSS is the technical lead for the resource soil scientists in his or her State and may also be the direct supervisor. A major portion of the duties of the SSS are related to Technical Soil Services. Some of the duties listed below for a resource soil scientist include those a SSS performs.

The resource soil scientist and soil survey operations (622.01)

Some of the major roles that resource soil scientists play in support of the soil survey program involve soil interpretations, soil survey products, soil project activities (e.g., benchmark soils and use-dependent soil properties), soil mapping and technical soil services training, soil investigations, ecological site descriptions, and thematic soil maps. All work performed by the resource soil scientist that involves making edits to the official soil survey data must be coordinated with and approved by the MLRA Soil Survey Leaders (SSL) or must be part of a statewide data editing plan approved by the SSS, the MO(s), and the SSO(s). The following is a list of example activities in which a resource soil scientist may be involved.

State Office:

  • Assisting the SSS with the development, coordination, and maintenance of accurate technical content and quality soils information in the Field Office Technical Guide 
  • Determining customer needs and ensuring that these needs are incorporated into SSO operations
  • Assisting and coordinating with the SSO, MO, and State Office in making any needed changes in the official soil survey data 
  • Providing assistance in the use of soils information for the implementation of NRCS conservation programs
  • Providing interdisciplinary input to solve resource problems (e.g., erosion, water quality)
  • Assisting with special soil studies, including collecting additional site and soil information on the performance and behavior of correlated soil map units
  • Training NRCS staffs and the public in the understanding and utilization of soil survey data and information
  • Assisting the SSS with the development and dissemination of soils information and in promoting soil survey
  • Assisting the SSS in evaluating the adequacy of existing soil survey maps, data, and interpretations and documenting needs for updating soil survey maps, data, and interpretations as specified in the National Soil Survey Handbook
  • Assisting and coordinating with the SSO, MO, and State Office in quality assurance for all production soil survey and update activities and products, including all data collection, NASIS data population, interpretation, correlation, manuscripts, and map compilation, finishing, and digitizing to ensure that all soil survey products meet NCSS standards specified in the National Soil Survey Handbook
  • Securing technical input and review from other disciplines into soil interpretations and technical reports
  • Providing soil survey project offices with technical support and guidance related to soil interpretations
  • Assisting with supplemental training in all aspects of the use and interpretations of soil survey data as needed (beyond that provided by the Soil Science Division) to soil survey office staffs through technical notes, onsite visits, workshops, and similar activities
  • Assisting and coordinating with the SSO, MO, and State Office with MLRA-specific correlation guidelines on soil temperature and moisture regimes and their associated ecological zones and vegetation and any other MLRA-specific information
  • Assisting and coordinating with the SSO, MO, and State Office in the collection of soil-survey-related soil characterization data and investigations in the SSO region 
  • Assisting the SSO and MO with technical quality assurance for soil survey technical reports and maps submitted for publication
  • Assisting in reviewing text and tables for soil survey technical reports
  • Assisting and coordinating with the SSO, MO, and State Soil Scientist in review of the Soil Survey Geographic (SSURGO) database and the Digital General Soil Map of the U.S. (STATSGO) database for consistency
  • Assisting and coordinating with the SSO, State Office, and NSSC with proposed revisions to major land resource area (MLRA) boundaries
  • Assisting in coordination of State, regional, or national conferences of the National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS)

MLRA Soil Survey Office (SSO):

Soil Interpretations

  • Assisting and coordinating with the SSO and State Office in the maintenance of the NASIS database, including quality control, collection/entry of new data elements, updates, and downloads
  • Assisting in the development and maintenance of nontechnical soil descriptions
  • Assisting in reviewing and testing existing interpretations for inaccuracies resulting from data errors, reviewing and testing local criteria or interpretations, and coordinating with the SSO(s) to correct errors
  • Assisting Agency technical specialists and the public with the interpretation of existing soils information and identifying soils information or criteria that are needed to improve the delivery of applicable interpretations
  • Assisting in the development of soil interpretive groups as needed for such tools as ecological site descriptions, dynamic soil properties, and forage suitability groups 

Soil Survey Products

  • Assisting in developing STATSGO from digital detailed soil maps

Project Activities

  • Assisting and coordinating with the SSO, MO, and State Office in conducting benchmark soil series characterization sampling
  • Assisting and coordinating with the SSO (via the SSL) and State Office to make any needed changes in the official soil survey data
  • Assisting with providing coordinated soils information to users
  • Assisting with responding to user needs for new soil interpretations
  • Assisting in supporting the integrity of soil interpretations through collection of soil performance data
  • Assisting with evaluating the adequacy and availability of soil surveys
  • Assisting with reviewing and populating soil survey office databases
  • Assisting with carrying out field investigations, describing and recording soil characteristics, preparing maps of soil boundaries and special features, and preparing taxonomic and map unit descriptions
  • Assisting in the collection and recording of soil behavior data, including soil quality; recording soil performance data; and documenting map units, reporting, and other text for publication
  • Assisting and coordinating with the SSO, MO, and State Office with soil survey office annual work plans, including schedules for completion of priorities identified in the project plan of operations for the area
  • Assisting with identifying training needs for soil survey office staff
  • Assisting with developing and implementing an active information program for the local soil survey
  • Participating in temporary details to ongoing soil surveys to perform field mapping, collect field documentation, and assist with other phases of soil survey operation as needed
  • Working with the soil survey office to identify any needed data for conservation program application and eligibility

Education and Outreach

  • Assisting in promoting the use of soil survey products in conjunction with State public affairs specialists
  • Assisting in developing and providing training in soil science and the use of soil survey information to internal and external customers
  • Assisting universities and units of government in the use of soil survey and other soils information and cooperating in or assisting with the facilitation of research projects