#EGU15 Day 2

After a long nights sleep, I felt somewhat more prepared for the 2nd day of talks at EGU 15. What I learnt from the first day was to admit that you cannot simply see everything. Taking breaks is also a good idea, whether that be grabbing a coffee and some superb Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel) or wandering around the stands and saying hello to Ian of the BSSS (British Society of Soil Science). It gives your brain a chance to catch up, or perhaps that’s just me?

Where people travel from to attend EGU Assembly

Where people have travelled from to attend EGU Assembly 2015

My day started by attending the session; ‘Soil Erosion, Land Use and Climate Change: mapping, measuring, modelling, and societal challenges’. A particularly interesting talk was given by Markus Dotterweich on the history of soil erosion. You can read more about this in his detailed review paper. Markus showed that through analysis of texts and artworks, that a recognition of soil erosion and its impacts on land quality had existed since approximately 451 BC! For example, the Tabula VII, Law of the Twelve Tables (451 BC) stated; ‘owner of a property responsible for damage on a neighbours property caused by rainwater runoff’. This has been used by Markus and others to support geomorphic evidence (i.e. buried soils, tree roots etc.) to understand the history of erosion in Europe.

Over lunchtime I attended a short course on soil-mapping methods. The first talk was given by Johan Bouma (Wageningen University), who I have to say was a great speaker! He certainly has a passion for the subject which shines through. He started by emphasising that soil surveyors inherently have a medium (soil) which is invisible and often the boundaries of which are indistinct. His main take-home messages were that how soils will behave in the future (especially with climate change) has not been fully investigated and that many experiments are still to be found in the field; as soil and plant scientists, that’s good to know! However, it must be remembered as to the maps uses; for example, a farmer will generally not be interested in long-term climate change when managing their land and would likely prefer the real-time monitoring of soil properties.

Johan also gave us his three main roles of the modern soil survey;

  1. Exploring the future.
  2. Land use questions at the regional and national scale level (especially in developing countries).
  3. Major questions for precision agriculture.
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Johan Bouma talking about soil survey uses

Next up was Bradley Miller (Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research) who discussed the use of GIS and spatial statistics in soil mapping.He identified that the challenge for soil mapping was the transferring of soil-mapping methods to other areas. Currently, each region or country has its own independent soil survey which is often started from ‘scratch’ each time a new survey is commissioned,

GIS and Spatial Statistics

GIS and Spatial Statistics

I once again attended the poster session, and with my complimentary beer (or two) I set off to walk the thousands of posters available to peruse. I bumped into Matt Aikenhead from the James Hutton Institute, who was presenting a poster of the British Society of Soil Sciences and their role in the International Year of Soils! Below is a slightly blurry picture of the poster (apologies for that). Interestingly, Matt was saying that the poster was printed on canvas. This is a genious idea, as their is no need for a poster tube; it can simply be folded and put in a laptop bag for travel, or even ironed to remove the creases. I remember also seeing a twitter post (although I cannot find it now) which suggested the use of vinyl posters as a great gift for others – however, I don’t see this catching on.

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Finally, I attended a town hall session on Saving our Science Legacy: International Data Rescue Efforts, hosted by the academic publisher, Elsevier. I was attending to represent Cranfield University’s Soil and Agrifood Institute entry into this data legacy competition. The institute entered its World Soil Survey Archive (WOSSAC), which represents a substantitive effort to digitise and make available soil survey maps and literature from countries all over the world. The picture below gives a brief overview of the project.


However, unfortunately we were not successful and the British Geological Survey came in as winners for their 3D fossil scanning project.


GB/3D fossil project from BGS

It was good to see though, that as part of #IYS2015, the Global Soil Map received an honorary mention.

That’s pretty much it for Day 2, well apart from being played ‘Hey Jude’ by a Viennese violinist whilst I ate my chicken schnitzel dinner – but that’s for another time,

So, Day 3 begins, look for more on this tomorrow.

Author: O. Pritchard


Feature Image: Soil profile from http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/High_School_Earth_Science/Soils