Research student profile: Brendan Malone

Project title

Digital Soil Mapping: Whole soil profile predictions of soil properties at a consistent resolution across user-defined study areas and landscapes.

Project overview

My project aims to devise a methodology for the quantitative prediction of soil properties in both a lateral and vertical space. Using soil legacy data combined with geo-statistical modelling and digital soil mapping techniques, I hope to convey soil information in its true form: as a 3-dimensional entity.

At the moment, research has shown there is a need for quantitative soil information. In ‘big picture’ mentality, with an increasing world population there is and will be an increasing demand on soil resources to feed and clothe people. Therefore we need to come to grips with being able to get more from our soils but also use them in a sustainable fashion. Having an accurate snapshot of soil resources will provide the tools necessary for their monitoring, but will also determine where the best locations are for implementing agriculture and vice versa.

Previously, findings have demonstrated that digital soil mapping can effectively utilise legacy soil data to produce digital maps of both soil classes and properties. We need to take this to another level, where we are not only predicting in a spatial environment but also within a vertical space.

To tackle this project my research involves having a deep understanding of the principals of soil formation and why it varies in both a lateral and vertical space. This knowledge will form the backbone of all the modelling and geo-statistical work I will be undertaking.

In practice having a good knowledge of statistics and geo-spatial information systems will be imperative for handling and manipulating data. I will also need to have a working knowledge of number of associated software programs, and be proficient with computer programming language in order to implement the modelling procedures crucial for my studies.

If this methodology of soil prediction yields accurate and reliable results in the number of study areas I am using for this project, then there should be no problem in its distribution for others to implement at other locations. With programs such as the impending ‘Global Soil Map’, endeavouring to map the soil properties of the world at a 90m resolution or for government agencies wishing to update their soil databases, this project could provide the tools necessary for the implementation of these projects.

A more holistic benefit of having an accurate snapshot of soil resources is a greater understanding of soil and thus a better means of its sustainable management.


I am from Wagga Wagga, a regional town situated on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in southern NSW. After completing my schooling (HSC) in 1997, I worked and travelled throughout Australia before settling in Sydney. In Sydney I worked and trained as an arborist prior to embarking upon tertiary studies. I am now a recent graduate (2008) from the University of Sydney where I attained a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Hons). In my final year, I specialised in the soil science stream, and submitted my thesis titled “The identification and characterisation of loessic soils and their spatial distribution around Mt Canobolas in the New South Wales Central Tablelands”.

I have been granted a Vice-Chancellor's Research Scholarship (VCRS) to supplement my PhD candidature at the University of Sydney.

I was on the Dean's list in 2007 and 2008, and was the recipient of the Brian G Davey Memorial Scholarship in Soil Science (2007) and the Belmore Scholarship (2006).


  • Odeh I, Bishop T, Malone B (2008) Modelling soil organic carbon dynamics under different crop production systems in north western NSW using the RothC model. In 'Proceedings of the ANZ Soils 2008: Soil - The Living Skin of Planet Earth conference'. Massey University Institute of Natural Resources, Palmerston North, NZ.



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