Project Guidelines and Suggestions
Each student will be expected to complete a
semester project on soil genesis, morphology, and
classification. This project will involve a
complete description and comparison of 2 soils in
their environmental setting as well as a
discussion of the processes and factors that have
influenced their formation. The following
guidelines are intended to give you an idea of
how to approach the project and what is expected.
1. Select a study area or areas that are of
interest to you and one where you would like to
learn more about the soils. Possibilities include
an area where you will be conducting research,
working, or an area near your hometown. Try to
choose an area so that your project report will
be of use to you or someone else. I will be happy
to suggest some possible locations in the Moscow
area if you have trouble coming up with a
2. Obtain some information about the study area
that you have selected. This should include
information about climate, soils, geology,
vegetation, land use, etc. This will give you an
idea of what to expect and will also be
information that should be included in your
3. If necessary, obtain permission from
landowners to dig.
4. At each study area, make every effort to select a representative
site for your soil description. It may be possible to use existing
roadcuts, but it is usually preferable to dig a pit. If you do use
an existing road cut, be aware of potential disturbance caused by
road building. It's generally best to avoid the downhill side of
a road, as this is where excess material is often dumped. If you
can find a cut where the surface doesn't appear to have been disturbed,
make sure you dig back into the cut at least one foot - this will
minimize artifacts created by exposure of the cut face to the elements.
You should try to describe the soil to a depth of at least 1.25
m (4 ft). When digging a pit, make sure you remove any sod/organic
layers and set it aside so you can 'reclaim' the site when finished.
5. Photograph the soil and surrounding landscape.
Orient your pits so that you can photograph the
soil profile without shadows. A measuring tape of
some kind should be included in the photos for
scale. If possible, slightly over-expose the photo to bring out color
and contrast. Its a good idea to take
plenty of pictures varying such factors as
exposure, lighting, etc. this will improve
your chances of getting a good shot that can be
used for your report.
6. You should identify a minimum of 4 horizons
and describe them in detail using standard pedon
description terms and format. In case of bad
weather, much of the description can made from
collected samples. Observations which must be
made in the field include horizon depths,
boundaries, coarse fragment content, and
7. Collect samples from near the center of each
horizon. Place a sample from each horizon in a
box to preserve natural structure and
orientation. Sample boxes will be provided and
must be turned in with the project report. It's
also a good idea to collect approximately 1 cup
of soil from each horizon to use for subsequent
8. Make standard site observations. These should
include: location (use GPS coordinates if
possible), elevation, landscape position, %
slope, aspect, vegetation, parent material, depth
to water table, drainage, and any other
observations that your ability, experience, and
9. Your project report should include the
a complete description and photograph(s)
of the study site(s); a location map is
strongly recommended, and the reader should be able to find the site from the information provided
a complete description and photographs of
both soil profiles along with labeled box samples
tables or figures presenting measured or
estimated site or soil properties
accurate classification of each soil to
the family or series level with discussion of how you came up with the chosen taxonomic class
discussion of each soil's genesis with
emphasis on comparing and contrasting the
soil-forming factors and processes
discussion of major morphological properties that influence
the suitability or limitations of the soils
references cited; in scientific writing, you MUST indicate the source(s) of information presented
10. All project reports will be submitted in a poster-style format.
This format should be neat and professional-looking with many well-organized
facts and relatively few words. Reports will be graded on scientific
content, technical accuracy, discussion of soil genesis, creativity,
extra effort, appearance, scientific format. Click here for a copy of the grading rubric.
You will have an opportunity
to look at a sample project evaluation form later in the semester.
Reports will be due Friday, December 13th. If time permits, each student will be asked to give a short presentation on their project
during the last lab period.
The final report should follow scientific format, including an introduction, materials and methods, results and discussion, and
references cited. If you are unfamiliar with the various components
of scientific format, find an appropriate reference or talk to the
instructor for suggestions.
There are several software options available for preparing your project report
in poster format. It will be up to you to decide the style you are
going to use. Examples of poster presentations can be seen in the
halls of the CNR building and the Ag Science building. You
should look at some of these to get ideas. Regardless of style of poster
you choose to make, here are a few points to consider:
Dimensions of your poster should be
approximately 3 ft. by 4 ft.
Make sure layout of poster is easy for a
reader to follow. Normally, the poster should
flow from left to right and top to bottom.
Dont crowd too much information into
the poster layout.
Keep text in short, concise, legible
statements and make sure font size is large
enough to read from a distance of ~6 ft.
Highlight trends and comparisons with
graphs, tables, and diagrams. All of these should
have a caption in which key points contained in
the graph or table are made.
A picture is worth a thousand
words. Rather than trying to explain what
something looks like, use pictures wherever
Titles, headings, and subheadings can be
used to help organization. It is best to
highlight these by making them larger than the
text copy. Colors or colored lines can also be
used to distinguish headings from text.