When In Rome….

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Simulated 3-D Perspective View of Arcata, California, USA

Simulated 3-D Perspective View of Arcata, California, USA

Today some of the nicest and smartest people on the planet are gathered in Rome for the 4th Global Workshop on Digital Soil Mapping.

I was able to attend the first three global workshops and I wish I could be in Rome today. I miss my friends and the challenging and stimulating discussions.

What the heck is digital soil mapping, you say?

First Point: Soils are important since they produce almost everything we eat, support our roads and buildings, and play pivotal roles in ecosystem processes such as water and nutrient cycling. And much more.

Second Point: When we have maps of where different soils occur and information about those soils we can manage resources and make investment decisions more wisely.

Third Point: Computer (digital) maps that show soil variations continuously across landforms are more useful for modern analysis.

Digital soil mapping is a field of study that uses field data and analyzes maps of geology, climate, topography, vegetation, and other things that control soil development, to model soils in a computer. Advanced statistics are used to build relationships between the field information and the input maps.

The goal is to produce useful information about soils in an efficient, objective, and reproducible manner.

When I studied soil science in college I didn’t think that I would someday be involved with satellite images and statistical models. But that is what I have been working on for the last sixteen years.

And I didn’t know that I would have the privilege of meeting scientists from many countries who are dedicated to helping people know about soils so they can feed themselves and understand resource interactions.

I also didn’t expect these very highly educated people to be some of the nicest people I would meet in my career. OK, there are some eccentrics also, but life and science would be dull without the strong characters.

The illustration above is a simulated 3-D perspective view of the area around Arcata, California, USA and Humboldt Bay at low tide. The purpose of this image is to illustrate that resource information viewed as maps gives insights into our world that we can not get any other way. In this case it is a just a view of color aerial photography on a surface. But a digital soil map could also be placed on this surface to help people understand the location of soils in their area.

This post is a toast to the scientists meeting in Rome at the 4th Global Workshop on Digital Soil Mapping! I wish I could be there to clink glasses with you this evening. Bonne chance!

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