This course centers on the overlap of soil science and ecology. Our goal is to understand: (1) how the interactions of landform, topography, climate, and biota influence the development and distribution of soils; (2) how physical, chemical and biological properties of soils affect water and nutrient availability to plants; and (3) how nutrients are cycled within terrestrial ecosystems and how these processes are influenced by human activities.
In the field portion of the course, we will sample and describe soils of four ecosystems and observe first hand how differences in landform, topography, climate and biota influence soil formation. In the laboratory, we will analyze our soil samples for a number of physical, chemical, and biological properties. Using laboratory data in conjunction with field data, each student will select two of the four ecosystems for detailed comparison in a research paper. Although we will focus our attention on local ecosystems of Michigan, skills learned in this course may be broadly applied within a variety of terrestrial ecosystems in other geographic regions.