Soil scientists study the chemical, physical and biological properties
of soils. They research anything from global topics like climate change or
acid rain to local issues like well contamination.
Agriculture and soil science have always been closely linked. Soil scientists
in this area use their knowledge of the earth to find out which crops grow
best in which soils, what fertilizers to use and what the best methods of
plowing and planting might be.
The study of soils is also critical from an environmental perspective.
"Soils within a country determine the quality of that nation's environment,
because soil acts like a kidney," says John Beck. He is a soil scientist.
"Water is purified as it moves through the soil to the groundwater. Plants
growing in the soil purify the air we breathe."
Soil scientists work in a variety of environments: labs, offices and the
field. In the field, they collect soil samples and survey the environment.
They will then take the information and samples to the lab, where they test
the soil for quality and look for solutions. Once testing is done, they work
in offices, writing up research findings.
"Most soil scientists would tell you they chose this profession because
they liked the combination of field and laboratory work," says soil scientist
Soil scientists work for governments, agricultural co-ops, fertilizer producers,
forest companies, environmental consulting companies, mining companies and
colleges and universities. Many are also becoming independent consultants.
"More and more soil scientists are finding work in environmental management,"
says Ted Hartsig, a soil scientist.
People with disabilities or physical limitations should be able to do this
job, although they might have trouble with the fieldwork.