Cardinal Course Highlight: Science of Soils

Wednesday, August 21, 2019
students digging

In Spring 2019, 31 students in Scott Fendorf’s Science of Soils course (EARTHSYS 155/ESS 155) got a chance to dig deep – literally! Students applied their newfound knowledge of soil science to help managers at local farms, schools, and community gardens understand their soil conditions and inform their soil management plans. Working in teams at eight different sites in East Palo Alto, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Pescadero, and Stanford campus, students dug a soil pit, took samples, and analyzed them in the lab. Armed with these findings, students developed recommendations for how their community partner could amend the soil to best support the crops they hoped to plant. Students’ projects helped to inform the future planting of fruit trees at a community park and a home for developmentally disabled adults, the repurposing a pumpkin patch at an elementary school, and implementation of sustainable soil management practices at a nonprofit farm and a cattle ranch. At the same time, this community experience brought soil science to life for students. As one student put it, “Being able to look at the pH and salinity of soil in a real-life setting, then to give advice on how to manage it to real people, engaged my learning and made me see the great practical aspects of the class.”