Geomorphology Field Trip – Understanding how the landscape works to manage it sustainably.

The practical aspect of soil science at Lincoln University. A sneak peek into the SOSC223 Geomorphology Field Trip.

“Geomorphology helps us to understand how the landscape works, then you can manage it sustainably.”


Field trip to Kaitorete Spit (or Kaitorete “barrier”), Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) and Te Wairewa (Lake Forsyth). Using geomorphology to understand the formation and management of the landscape, as well as the landscapes use as a resource.


Carol Smith discussing the geomorphology of the barrier formation at Birdlings Flat.

Top Left: Monica Giona Bucci (PhD Student), Judith van Dijk (Tutor) and Carol Smith (Senior Lecturer). Bottom Left: Judith illustrating how the spit and barrier were formed, using a very descriptive sand drawing. Right: Carol Smith discussing the inter-dune depression.



Want to work with Antarctica New Zealand?

Antarctica New Zealand have just opened up applications for a Science Programme Support role to assist the Science Team for the next year. The role is based at Antarctica New Zealand in Christchurch and is primarily to assist with reviewing Antarctic logistics support requests, science reporting and metadata management.

The ideal candidate will have a postgraduate science degree, Antarctic field research experience, excellent communication skills, and report writing and data management experience.

Here’s a link to more info about the role and how to apply:

Science Programme Support Role – Antarctica New Zealand


State of the Nation’s Environment 2017

Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister.

Come and hear from Sir Peter Gluckman on the radical changes that humans have made to our environment.

Today! Thursday 20th of July 2017. 5.30pm – 7.30pm. (Please be seated by 5.15pm)

Stewart Lecture Theatre, Stewart Building, Lincoln University.

RSVP through Eventbrite or email

Drinks and nibbles provided.

Science – Drilling deep to unearth a new frontier in the story of nitrate movement!

Here is a positive article about ground breaking research to investigate nitrate movement at depth and the role of microbes.

Science – Drilling Deep into Dirty Dairying,

How we talk about science is as important as the science itself. This research is ground-breaking stuff, positive and full of potential to provide ways of dealing with our nations environmental challenges. So why do we label articles like this with potentially misleading catch phrases? How has something so important been turned into click bait and tainted with, let’s hope, unconscious bias?

So, lets look at the exciting stuff – the science!

Dr. Gwen Grelet and Dr. David Whitehead are the lead researchers in this study, examining bacteria and fungi at depth in the soil. They will be trying to identify which parts of the microbes’ genes control the soil nitrogen processes – nitrification and denitrification, that may provide the key to keeping nitrate from reaching waterways and aquifers.

The Landcare Research science team – in collaboration with Lincoln University, Plant & Food Research and Scion – believe they’re doing something no-one else in the science community has dared to do. Something big.

What sets this experiment apart is the size of the samples and the impressive-looking 10-tonne drilling rig. McMillan Drilling group designed a custom-made drilling head to plunge sterilised PVC pipes into stony Canterbury soils to a depth of 1.7 m. The samples extracted weigh about 100kg.” –



Soil Judging is the new NBA

If you are interested in soils, want to get your hands dirty and get to know different soil types around the world you should get involved in soil judging!

I had the great opportunity of participating in the first New Zealand soil judging competition in Wanaka last year, as part of the New Zealand and Australia Soil Science Conference in Queenstown.

Not only did we have a great couple of days in the field, hands on learning about soils but we got to know fellow soil lovers, with participants from across NZ, Australia and America.

Comradery, companionship and competition! the perfect combination, all that and ‘expanding your horizons’ with great soils knowledge.

Check out Society of Soil Judgers on facebook!

Read more in our recent post ‘Learning by Doing’ by Dr Carol Smith about organising and running New Zealand’s first soil judging competition in December 2016!

What can I tell by looking at – and touching – my soil?

Get your hands dirty!

Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!

If you are outside and want to know something about the soil you are working with, and don’t have any fancy equipment, then this is for you. With a little bit of experience you can get an idea of how much organic matter you have in your soil, how much clay you have, and how acidic or basic your soil is. The equipment you need is: 1) your eyes; 2) your hands; 3) a little water; and 4) a piece of pH litmus paper (never leave home without it).

Soil Darker soil near the top (grass) has more organic matter in it, which makes the soil dark brown. Credit: NRCS

Organic matter –Organic matter is a source of plant nutrients, the source of energy for soil organisms, and a sponge for holding water in the soil. To know something about soil organic matter, just look at the color of the soil…

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A Little Encouragement for the Novice

Lets start today with a little encouragement, a double quote; quoted from C.H.Hapgood’s book, Maps of Ancient Sea Kings from Brian Fry’s, Stable Isotope Ecology.

“Every scientist is an amateur to start with. Copernicus, Newton and Darwin were all amateurs when they made their principle discoveries. Through the course of long years of work they became specialists in the fields which they created. However the specialist who starts out by learning what everybody else has done before him is not likely to initiate anything very new. An expert is a man who knows everything, or nearly everything, and usually thinks he knows everything important, in his field. If he doesn’t think he knows everything, at least he knows other people know less, and thinks that amateurs know nothing. And so he has an unwise contempt for amateurs, despite the fact that it is to amateurs that innumerable important discoveries in all fields of science have been due….when a difficult problem was being discussed, Thomas A. Edison said it was too difficult for any specialist. It would be necessary, he said, to wait for some amateur to solve it.”

“In other words, amateurs are great for their new thinking and initiatives.”

Embrace your start into the world of science, embrace the challenge, the knowledge and discover!