Punching above our weight

19 June 2014

Staff and students form the Department of Environmental Sciences have just returned from the 20th World Congress of Soil Science held in JeJu, South Korea between the 8th- 13th June 2014, where they made a significant contribution presenting the latest developments in soil research and outreach.

Of the 2,000 registered attendees at the congress 222 came from Australia making this the 3rd largest group internationally. Almost 10 percent of the Australian representatives came from the Department of Environmental Science, which is the most significant event on the calendar for the International Union of Soil Science. This included 5 staff, 5 postdocs and 8 postgraduates, and although they were not able to attend the congress, a further 6 staff, 3 postdocs and 2 undergraduates coauthored papers that were delivered by those attending.

There were 24 oral papers presented from the group covering topics, such as; fundamental research on organo-mineral interactions and the bio-availability of lead in soil, developments in soil classification schemes and a call for a scheme to classify biochar variability, advances in soil mapping techniques and the adoption of new technologies to expedite soil analysis, developments in soil science education, and even a talk on the 'Gods of Soil Science'. These themes, and more, were continued with 26 posters being displayed, and four of these were awarded 'best poster' in their session. As well as colleagues from the department the papers and posters involved collaborations with approximately 29 other national and international institutions, universities, and government departments. This congress also saw the inaugural international soil judging competition where young soil scientists compete to show their nation is best at evaluating soil.

As well as the chance for researchers to present their work a plenary symposium was held where the newly emerging concept of Global Soil Security, developed here in the Department of Environmental Science, was launched. The dimensions of this concept recognise the importance of the biophysical role soil has to play in some of the global challenges being faced, as well as, the importance of education, connection of communities and sound policy that make the equally important socio-economic considerations of soil. There has long been a call for forging links between the biophysical and socio-economic and talking with delegates at the conference this concept is a great step forward in developing these links. To keep the momentum a series of regional workshops will be held over the next three years with the first for the America's being held in Texas A&M University 19th -21st May 2015.

The conference was also the platform on which Professor Alex McBratney was awarded the Dokuchaev Award for research in soil science, the Noble Prize of soil science. This along with the significant number of presentations lends support to the contribution that colleagues in the Department of Environmental Science are making to international soil science.

Contact: Dr Damien Field

Email: 3757215c5c045f31074e35060a3228372b3f4e4b0903267e5913