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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Postgraduate Courses (School of GeoSciences)

Postgraduate Course: Soil Science Concepts and Application (PGGE11180)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryA soil scientist requires the ability to collect and interpret information on soil physics, biology and chemistry to allow soil preservation and maintenance of soil health. As such, the Soil Science Concepts and Applications module will provide students with a theoretical insight into soil science by looking at the biological, chemical and physical methods of analysis available to scientists, consultants and land managers. This theoretical delivery will be supported by both laboratory and field based practical┐s that allow the students to gain hands on experience in a range of methods, analysis and interpretation.

The aim of the course is to provide students with a more rounded knowledge of soil analytical techniques and experiences. This should improve their potential employability within sectors interested in soil science. Additionally, the laboratory class aspects of the course will provide awareness of good laboratory practice, which should serve as a very transferable skill set as well as improve student readiness for dissertation laboratory and field work.
Course description The course will be delivered over the following 12 teaching periods:
Week 1: Introduction to Soil
a. The heterogeneous nature of soil and biotic/abiotic interactions
b. Soil classification systems and the major soil orders of the world
c. The future of soil science
Week 2: Soil Sampling (lecture and field visit)
a. Sampling strategies and feasibility
b. Qualitative and quantitative determinations
c. Methods of recovery
d. Storage of materials and methods of analysis
Week 3: Soil Physics
a. Soil physical processes and characterisation
b. Measuring soil physical properties
Week 4: Soil Physics (field and lab class)
a. Visual evaluation of soil structure and detecting compaction
b. Sampling for bulk density measurements, soil strength measurements
c. Hand texturing and processing samples collected in the field to determine bulk density and moisture contents
Week 5: Soil Chemistry
a. Importance of soil chemical properties and biogeochemical cycling of elements
b. Methods of analysis for soil nutrients, pH, cation exchange capacity, soil GHG release, soil C and N and dissolved organic C contents
c. Instrumental analysis and handling soil chemical data (units, conversions - liquids, gases and solids, calculating soil stocks)
Week 6: Innovative Learning Week
Week 7: Soil Chemistry (lab class)
a. Soil processing and extraction procedures (water and salt extractions)
b. Measuring soil pH, electrical conductivity and mineral N contents using prepared extracts
c. Extraction of soils for determination of dissolved organic carbon concentrations and analysis (theory)
d. Preparation of soils for determination of C and N contents (theory)
Week 8: Soil Biology
a. Intro to diversity and abundance of organisms in the soil food web
b. Soil biology and sustainable agricultural systems
c. Measuring soil biological properties
Week 9: Soil Biology (lab class)
a. Substrate induced respiration experiment
b. Worm identification session
c. Analysis of greenhouse gases released from soils using gas chromatography (theory)
Week 10: Soil Modelling
a. Introduction to environmental modelling
b. Model optimisation
c. Model validation
Week 11: Soil Modelling (lab class)
a. Overview of IPCC (2019) steady state soil carbon model
b. Overview of soil carbon modelling
c. Conducting a soil carbon modelling assessment for a Scottish livestock farm
Week 12: Scientific report writing/self-study

Teaching staff from within SRUC will deliver the majority of the course content. In some areas expertise from Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the James Hutton Institute, and several local consultants may be utilised to provide collaborative expert support.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2020/21, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  30
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 30, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 166 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The course will be assessed by four small laboratory reports and one large scientific report in the style of a journal article. The 2-3 page laboratory reports will be completed in the week following the respective laboratory classes and each will contribute towards 15% of the total award. The results generated from each practical class will then be combined and used to formulate a 3000 word scientific report worth 40% of the total award.

Soil physics lab report (15%):
Soil chemistry lab report (15%):
Soil biology lab report (15%):
Soil modelling report (15%):
Scientific Report (40%):
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Have the ability to collect, analyse, interpret and evaluate information on soil biological quality.
  2. Have the ability to collect, analyse, interpret and evaluate information on soil physical quality.
  3. Have the ability to collect, analyse, interpret and evaluate information on soil chemical quality.
  4. Use their understanding of soil/environmental modelling and model design to assess soil behaviour
  5. Have the ability to compile information into a scientific journal article.
Reading List
┐ Brady, N.C., and Weil, R.R (2008) The Nature and Properties of Soil. Revised 14th Edition. Pearson Education Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ, USA.
┐ Soil Sampling, Preparation, and Analysis, Second Edition: 108 (Books in Soils, Plants, and the Environment) [Hardcover], Kim H. Tan (Author) ISBN-13: 978-0849334993.
┐ Robertson GP, Coleman DC, Bledsoe CS, Sollins P, (1999) Standard soil methods for long-term ecological research. Oxford University Press, New York. pp. 258┐271.
┐ Soil Ecology by Ken Killham (1994), ISBN 0 521 43521 8, Cambridge University Press
┐ Environmental Soil Chemistry, 2nd Edition, Author : D Sparks, Release Date: 04 Jan 2003. Imprint: Academic Press. ISBN: 9780126564464 (In Edinburgh Library)
┐ Smith, K.A. and Mullins, C.E. 2001. Soil and environmental analysis: physical methods. Second edition. Marcel Dekker, NY. 637 pp (In SRUC Library)
┐ Soil sampling and methods of analysis. Edited by M. R. Carter and E. G. Gregorich, Canadian Society of Soil Science. 2008.
┐ Evaluating land quality for carbon storage, greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient leaching. In Visual Soil Evaluation: Realizing Potential Crop Production with Minimum Environmental Impact, (ed. Ball B.C. and Munkholm L.J.), CABI Publishing, Wallingford.
┐ Whalen, J.K and Sampedro, L (2009) Soil Ecology and Management, CABI Publishing, Wallingford, UK, pp.1- 296
┐ Paul, E.A (2014) Soil Microbiology, Ecology and Biochemistry, Elsevier Science, UK, pp. 1- 598
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Keywordssoil biology,soil classificiation
Course organiserDr Madeleine Bell
Tel: (0131) 535 4214
Course secretaryMrs Elspeth Martin
Tel: 0131 535 4198
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