If you have been around me in the lab for the last month, you might have caught me a few times watching a soccer game while scraping away soil samples. When there is a huge bin full of samples to scrape, you need something to pass the time. As a huge soccer fan, the World Cup brings me excitement every four years when it rolls around. Some of the countries I closely followed in this World Cup have players with great individual skill but have mostly gotten their nation to advance solely on team chemistry. So far, this observation has paralleled my experience in the Agroecology lab this summer.
I am working individually most days on Elizabeth de la Reguera’s project about how saltwater intrusion affects the storage of carbon in soil on agricultural fields. In this project, different soil aggregates are separated by sieving them from large to small particle size, until eventually silt and clay is left in the end. After the aggregates are dried in an oven, I weigh them and take them back to scrape in coin envelopes (shown in the picture). The amount of carbon is then tested after the samples are in envelopes. This work is important in observing how outside forces like saltwater intrusion can greatly affect aggregate stability . This research will hopefully help farmers take saltwater intrusion into account and seek solutions, such as establishing barriers to mitigate intrusion rate or adjusting crops to salt-tolerant species .
With the many individual projects the lab has, our “team chemistry” is still displayed. On a small scale, Elizabeth and I communicate well to ensure that her project is running smoothly. This can include relaying turkey tins to her car from the drying oven, needing more samples in the lab, or teaching me something new. In the field a couple weeks ago, I was part of a team of six when it came to installing lysimeters and soil sampling. We knocked out two fields in one day and got to go home a day early! On a large scale, the goal of our lab is to make agriculture more sustainable through research. We all know we aren’t making as much money as Messi or Ronaldo, but together we are definitely making an impact in the environmental and agricultural world. Even with the World Cup coming to an end soon, I still have a lot of great experiences left in the lab this summer.
-By Drew Mandich
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. (1996). Soil Quality Indicators: Aggregate
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Duan, Y. (2016). Saltwater intrusion and agriculture: a comparative study between the
Netherlands and China. TRITA-LWR Degree Project 2016:20.