Soil 454 - Pedology


Lecture Schedule

Lab Schedule

Project Guidelines

Old Tests




Term Project Guidelines and Suggestions

Fall 2014

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 suitable site.

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 report.

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. It’s 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 root/pore distributions.

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 analyses.

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 originality suggest.

9. Your project report should include the following:
• 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.
• Don’t 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 possible.
• 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.