Soil Early Careers Researchers Conference 2017

“In this latest blog post, Grant Campbell personally reflects upon his time at the British Society of Soil Science (BSSS) Early Careers Researchers (ECR) Conference at Lancaster University”

Last week, I attended the BSSS ECR conference at Lancaster University. This was the second time I have personally been to an event like this with the last one being held in York two years ago. Fronted by BSSS Student representative Ashley Gorman, we were treated to an action packed two days and in this blog post, I will discuss the highlights.

Day 1

After Ashley welcomed everyone to the conference, we were treated to an introductory talk from BSSS Past President, Liz Baggs (who had to step in for Wilfred Otten due to illness).

BSSS Student Representative Ashley Gorman welcomes the delegates to the conference

After that we moved onto the first session of talks led by BSSS Scotland regional representative Tom Inglis. Topics in this session evolved around the themes of image analysis methods in grasslands, cropping systems and soil structure revealed by x-ray, crop diversity and ecosystem services, fungi on agricultural leaching and effects of crop species on clay loams. These talks were varied in nature and all were well presented with lots of talking points.

PhD student Erika Delgani from Reading University presents her research in the first of the presentation slots.

After lunch, we were then treated to some short pitches from Group A of the poster presentation people and then after this we were introduced to the second session of talks which was led by Dan Evans (not the British tennis player!). Dan writes a very interesting and thought provoking blog site of his own and can be accessed here. In this session, further themes ranged from myxospermous seeds in erosive agroecosystems, earthworms and ecosystem services, land use and soil properties,biogeographic differences in soil biota influence invasive and native species responses to nutrient addition and the influence of soil phosphorous on relatiionships with soil trophic interactions between plants, rhizosphere bacteria and nematodes.

Ashley presented her research in the second session on myxospermous seeds which I am sure was a fruitful experience for some!

After the latest session of talks, Groups A and B were split up so that one session went to work with Phil Haygarth on Grant Writing and the other group went to work with Mike Goss and Margaret Oliver on Publishing in Soil Science. After a half session, the groups then swapped over. This proved to be an invaluable session and the skills picked up here, from me personally, were very useful indeed!

Phil Haygarth presents his session on Grant Writing (left), Margaret Oliver and Mike Goss present their workshop on publishing in Soil Science journals (right)

The next session moved onto a session entitled Careers in Soil Science. In this session, Liz Baggs discussed the possibilities of furthering your science career in acadmia, Paul Newell-Price talked about the notion of enhancing your career in consultancy and Mary Ockenden discussed post-doc opportunities.


Paul (left), Liz (left) and Mary (right) discuss their careers in Soil Science through consultancy, academia and post-doc opportunities.

Following on from that, Group A presented their posters to the rest of the conference attendees and then afterwards there was a short session on how to improve/get your points put across towards your society. Themes talked about at this session ranged from regional events, student rep elections and an engagement tool competition. All in all a very useful session particuarly for fellow soil students to get involved with.

Poster Presentation session from Day 1

The day ended with a celebration of the BSSS as a 70th birthday party to which fun and games ensued!

Liz and Ashley cut the birthday cake!


Day 2

The second day begain with an insightful session from Fast Track Impact‘s Professor Mark Reed. Based at Newcastle University, Mark leads an interesting training company which allows researchers across all levels of their career to consider and think about how their research is impacting stakeholders outwith and within their research communities. FTI’s mission is to change the way researchers generate and share knowledge in order to make their ideas change the world. I’ve met Mark a couple of times previously to this and every time I hear him I find him extremely inspirational and going forward I will continue to utilise his expertise to help me with my own research and hopefully others who were at the conference will do too.

Professor Mark Reed introduces Fast Track Impact to the delegates.

The day then moved to the 3rd session of presentations led by BSSS Welsh Representative Paul George. Speakers in this session had talks which had themes ranging from greenhouse gas fluxes, effectiveness of kaolin and bentonite on sandy soils, soil resistance and resilience of carbon and nitrogen cycling, root traits and root traits and soil organic matter in grasslands. Following on from that, Group B pitched their posters to the rest of the delegates (which included me!).

After a short refreshment break, the final session of talks was led by Bea Burak. In this session, the range of talks in this session was again diverse with topics such as soil productive lifespans, soil water repellancy, copper, diffusion and reaction in soil and sewage effluent tracers. After lunch, Group B presented their posters to the rest of the interested delegates before a Science Communication Workshop from Mark Reed on investigating your digital footprint.

Dan Evans (Left) uses the unusual analogy to combine soils with football whilst our fwllow Cranfield University colleague Jana discusses her own research on diffusion and reaction in soil (right).

To conclude the session, both sets of winners for the poster and presentation competitions were announced. Congratulations to all those that were successful! All in all, a fruitful couple of days meeting fellow PhD students with similar interests in the field of soil science. The future of soil science is in really good hands…

Oral Presentation Winners (From Left to Right): Ashley Gorman (Student Rep), Erika Delgani (3rd place), Dan Evans (winner), Chris Sweeney (2nd place), BSSS Past President Liz Baggs.

Also congratulations to the poster winners too particularly our very own Tom Storr whose poster got 3rd place! Well done Tom (@tstorr1)!

Author: Grant Campbell (with inputs from Ashley Gorman and Dan Evans)

Twitter: @Stato_Grant

Cover Photo: The author pictured with Phil Haygarth.