ESS 573: Soil Ecology


81484 (for web registration)




Rachel Thiet






Spring 2012

Meeting Schedule:

Thursdays 1/12 - 5/3 (1:00PM-3:59PM)


Competency Areas: Students who entered Fall 2010 and later: Methods or elective
Restricted to ES students.

‘The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.’ – Franklin Delano Roosevelt The field of soil ecology has grown tremendously over the past 30 years as researchers, farmers, and conservation activists become aware of the important roles that soil organisms play in plant community structure, ecosystem functioning, and economic stability. Conservationists, land managers, and farmers continue to explore management techniques that incorporate soil health into conservation initiatives and farm plans. What is healthy soil? How do soil organisms influence soil fertility and plant distribution? How does human activity influence the ability of soil organisms to function optimally? The first part of this course will focus on soil physical processes such as soil formation and development. We will then turn the bulk of our attention to soil biological properties and processes. Topics we will cover in depth include: soil microbial community structure and functioning; soil food webs; the impact of land management on soil organisms; the role of soil organisms in ecosystem functioning; soil organic matter turnover and nutrient cycling; interactions between soil biota and vascular plants; soil communities under conventional and sustainable agriculture, and; the effects of climate change and human activity on the structure and functioning of soil communities on a global scale. This course will combine lectures, seminars, field trips, and a self-guided laboratory or field experiment, and emphasis will be on both natural and agricultural ecosystems.