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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 1 Introduction: Soils, sampling and statistics
- Outline of course content and assessment.
- Overview of global soil systems and soil forming factors
- Introduction to soil survey, sampling and mapping
- Basic statistical analysis for lab reports.

2 Soil survey and sampling
- Field trip to Boghall Farm, Edinburgh (Field visit)
- Introduction to different land use types
- Familiarisation with basic soil survey techniques and soil sampling strategies in practice
- Collection of soil samples for course practical workshops

3 Soil laboratory induction
- Introduction to laboratory experimentation and analytical techniques
- Safe and effective working in soil research laboratories
- Group tour of soil and analytical labs

4 Soil Physics (Theory)
- Background: soil physics and soil health
- Soil solids, pore space and soil structure
- Introduction to soil physics methods

5 Soil Physics (Practical)
- Visual evaluation of soil structure (VESS) and detecting compaction in-field *
- Bulk density, moisture content and porosity sampling and calculation
- Estimating soil texture and aggregate stability (slake test)

6 Soil Chemistry (Theory)
- Background: soil chemistry and soil health
- pH
- Plant macro- and micronutrients and biogeochemical cycles
- Soil carbon cycling and benefits
- Introduction to soil inorganic and organic chemistry methods

7 Soil Chemistry (Practical)
- Mineral N extraction and analysis
- Soil organic matter measurement
- pH and electrical conductivity

8 Soil Biology (Theory)
- Background: Soil biology and soil health
- Functional groups of soil organisms: microorganisms, mesofauna and ecosystem engineers
- Plant roots and mycorrhiza
- Introduction to soil biology methods

9 Soil Biology (Practical)
- *Adult earthworm counts in-field (Week 5)
- Microbial biomass estimation using substrate induced respiration.
- Plant root architecture and biomass

10 Soil Modelling (Theory)
- Introduction to environmental modelling, optimisation and validation

11 Soil Modelling (Practical)
- Overview of IPCC (2019) steady-state soil carbon model
- Overview of soil carbon modelling
- Conducting a soil carbon modelling assessment for a Scottish livestock farm

12 Writing a science paper
- Publishing research outputs: why and how
- Using R for statistical analysis of soil data
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  40
Course Start Semester 1
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) Laboratory style report detailing sampling strategy, laboratory analysis (chemistry, physical and biological) and results presentation. LO1, 1000 words, 30%

Presentation - Students to research different soil health indexes, and present one confirming why they have chosen this index over others (advantages and disadvantages). LO2, 30%

Submit a professionally formatted scientific paper based on their data collection from the experimentation demonstrating ability to evaluate and critically assess their findings in relation to the literature. - 2500 words, LO3, 40%
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Develop and apply field and laboratory approaches to compare soil quality under different land uses.
  2. Use their understanding of soil quality parameters in mathematical modelling of soil health and function
  3. Professionally evaluate and interpret collected experimental data and deliver in 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
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Keywordssoil biology,soil classificiation
Course organiserDr Jennifer Carfrae
Tel: 0131 535 4417
Course secretaryMs Jennifer Gumbrell
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