Katharine Brown recently joined the Soils For Life project team, bringing with her a wealth of knowledge and curiosity about soils. We asked her what she finds most fascinating about soil in this Q and A.
Q: What do you find so fascinating about soil?
A: There are an infinite number of fascinating facts about soil! If I were to choose one, it would be that “each soil has had its own history. Like a river, a mountain, a forest, or any natural thing, its present condition is due to the influences of many things and events of the past.” That’s a quote by soil scientist Dr Charles E. Kellogg from 1938. When you observe a soil, you gain an understanding of its past (how it formed), its present (how it functions), and its future (how it responds).
Q: You’ve been a soil scientist for 20 years now. What has been the most exciting thing/change you’ve seen in your career?
A: I am encouraged by the growing consensus on the significance of soils and the value of soil information. In particular, the recognition that soil is a finite natural resource and that soil condition will determine the extent society, the nation and the planet will benefit from ecosystem services. I am equally encouraged by the increase in the number of women soil scientists in what continues to be a male-dominated profession.
Q: What’s your new role with SFL and what will you be doing?
A: As a Soils For Life Project Team Member, I will be researching the benefits of regenerative agriculture on the soil, encouraging the adoption of land management practices to improve soil condition, sharing soil science knowledge with my colleagues, community and regenerative farmers, and increasing my understanding of regenerative agriculture practices.
Q: What’s one myth about soils you’d like to see busted?
A: That the “magic” happens in the topsoil. To understand the past, present, and future of a soil, we need to dig deeper!
Q: If you could change one thing about how people think about soil what would it be?
A: I would like to dispel two common thoughts:
1. That we can take from the soil without giving back.
2. That soil is dirt. Dirt is inert. Soil is alive.
Read more about the expertise on the Soils For Life team here.