Dirt Docs Review of the Year 2017

“In our final blog post of the year, PhD student Grant Campbell reviews the year of 2017 for Dirt Doctors”

It’s hard to believe that it is nearly the end of 2017! This means it is time for me to write up another Dirt Docs review of the year! This year has been an interesting one with a lot of new posts being written by other people out with the central Cranfield Dirt Docs network as well as the usual contingent. This is encouraging for us that other people outside Cranfield are willing to write pieces for us as part of soil/plant sciences interactions across the scientific community.

Our opening post of 2017 came from University of Reading’s very own Jeremy LeLean who wrote a piece on  how to communicate your science better – very useful for PhD students primarily but also really important for any person working in soil and plant sciences full stop. Jeremy is heavily involved with the Soil Security Programme at Reading and is an avid follower of our Twitter and blogging account. His continued support towards us has been much appreciated notably throughout the last 12months. Thanks Jeremy!

With February proving to be a tough month for all to write pieces due to deadlines, paper drafts, presentations and the like, March had a bit to make up for this. However, it did not disappoint! First up, University of Manchester’s own Richard Bardgett wrote a very thought-provoking piece for our #YourCareerInSoilOrPlantSciences segment – worth a read if you are interesting in establishing a career in this field. Following on from that, I wrote a review of my last James Hutton Institute Postgraduate Conference in Dunkeld and to finish up, our plant sciences queen Siobhan Gardiner wrote a review on her experiences at Clean Equity 2017.

April continued in the same way as March with some interesting posts across a range of activities around the country. I wrote a review of my time at the BSSS Early Careers Researchers Conference at Lancaster University which featured Tom Storr and Phil Haygarth (top two pics below!). We got another excellent #YourCareerInSoilOrPlantScience post from the University of Iowa’s Bradley Miller which is worth a read for sure and Shiv was out on the road again, this time sharing her thoughts at a recent IFST technical visit centred on the world of tea!

May saw some posts from relatively newer followers to the blog site. First Dan Evans from Lancaster University wrote about the work that the STARS group are doing, highlighting the work that they have been up to from a fieldtrip they were on. We also got receipt of another #YourCareerInSoilOrPlantSciences segment from James Hutton Institute’s Plant Ecologist Rob Brooker.

With many representatives and followers of Dirt Docs away on holidays, fieldwork and other such venues in June, July was seen as another catchup month for the Dirt Docs group. Once again, though, we didn’t disappoint (we hope!). First, PhD student Rosie McDonald, based at CEH in Edinburgh wrote about her Soapbox Science experiences in Edinburgh, featuring the equally interesting Lorna Dawson from The James Hutton Institute. I wrote about my experiences at my first international PhD conference I attended in Wageningen with colleagues centered on the theme of Pedometrics. Elsewhere, my colleague Tom Storr wrote about his and other fellow Cranfield University students experiences at the Groundswell Agriculture Conference. However, what was probably the highlight for Dirt Docs in 2017 happened this month as well. We got the news that the BSSS were able to fund us for an extra 2 years in order to help with web maintenance and domain hosting. Thanks to Shiv for her passionate pitch on this but also to everyone else who made a massive contribution to Dirt Docs since its inception in late 2014.

With holidays in the way, August was a quiet month for us but in September we were back in the game with some other excellent posts. I wrote a piece discussing the outcomes from the first part of my research which cumulated towards my first PhD paper. We also had two excellent #YourCareerInSoilOrPlantScienes blog posts: one from Matthew Shepherd from Natural England and one from Nathan Odgers from Landcare Research in New Zealand – both very different pieces but both equally engaging nonetheless.

October was a busy month for Dirt Docs as we saw a range of different posts to engage all parties. First, Jeremy was back to give us thoughts on when it is acceptable to blog or not. I wrote a review of the TB Macaulay 2017 lecture event at Our Dynamic Earth and we had two more #YourCareerInSoilOrPlantSciences pieces – one from retired soils guru Professor Johan Bouma from Wageningen University and one from Aberdeen University’s Paul Hallett.

November only saw one post on our site but it came from PhD student Matthew North who presented the highlights of his excellent PhD work on soil movement – worth having a discussion with him on social media or other forms of communication if you are interested.

Two posts (three including this review of the year) made up December. First, I was personally thrilled to read another #YourCareerInSoilrPlantSciences segment from a real legend within Pedometrics and Digital Soil Mapping, Professor Budiman Minasny of University of Sydney. PhD student Martha Ledger from Nottingham University gave us her review of the BSSS Annual General Meeting in London too.

More recently,  #WorldSoilDay on the 5th December led to many Twitter accounts using the hashtag to highlight important soil issues, opportunities and nuggets of knowledge that will have been interesting to many followers. Just like last year, at one point during the day, the hashtag was trending on Twitter at #1 which in itself is an outstanding achievement for soil! Overall, we are happy to say it has been a successful year for the Dirt Doctors. We’d like to thank the 773 followers who follow us on Twitter and to everyone who has read our blog posts or tweets throughout 2017. We’d also like to thank Zoe Payne at Cranfield University for advertising our blog posts each month to the PhD students and staff associated with Cranfield University, particularly in Agrifood and Water.

2017 has been an interesting year for soil and plant sciences and I’m sure 2018 will be no different. We welcome any posts from PhD students, staff or any interested parties who want to post or talk about issues surrounding soil and/or plant sciences. If you would like to write something for us next year, then please do not hesitate to give Jack, Tom or myself Grant a Tweet or email and we’ll accommodate you in as friendly a manner as we know how. We also would recommend any one who is keen to join our wonderful group next year to get in touch with us. With myself and Tom coming towards the end of our PhD’s it would be good to get a new group together to take over the mantle!

All that remains for me to say is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best for a healthy, successful 2018 and keep following the Dirt Doctors for more whimsical soil and plant science musings!

Author: Grant Campbell

Twitter: @Stato_Grant