Despite the soil science discipline in the USA hitting hard times in the 1980s and 1990s, there were still many positive advances within soil science in the USA during these two decades. There was an increased use of geophysical instrumentation, remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and global positioning systems (GPS), and research began in digital soil mapping, all of which lead to better understanding of the spatial distribution and variability of soils. Digital soil mapping is being incorporated into the National Cooperative Soil Survey, and the impact of humans on the soil system is being fully recognized. The expansion of soils into new areas and widening recognition of the importance of soils gives the field hope for a bright future in the USA.
Categories of cartographic scale correspond to the selection of environmental soil predictors used to initially create historical soil maps. Paradigm shifts in soil mapping and classification can be best explained by not only their correlation to historical improvements in scientific understanding, but also by differences in purpose for mapping, and due to advancements in geographic technology. Although the hierarchy of phenomena scales observed in this study is generally known in pedology today, it also represents a new view on the evolution of soil science.
Soil mapping, classification, and pedologic modelling have been important drivers in the advancement of our understanding of soil. Advancement in one of these highly interrelated areas tend to lead to corresponding advances in the others. Traditionally, soil maps have been desirable for purposes of land valuation, agronomic planning, and even in military operations. The expansion of the use of soil knowledge to address issues beyond agronomic production, such as land use planning, environmental concerns, energy security, water security, and human health, to name a few, requires new ways to communicate what we know about the soils we map as well as bringing forth research questions that were not widely considered in earlier soils studies.
This paper reviews the historical development of base maps used for soil mapping, and evaluates the dependence of soil mapping on base maps. Formerly, as a reference for spatial position, paper base maps controlled the cartographic scale of soil maps. However, this relationship is no longer true in geographic information systems. Today, as parameters for digital soil maps, base maps constitute the library of predictive variables and constrain the supported resolution of the soil map.
In an earlier post I contrasted induction and deduction while suggesting that induction is the currently favored term used in science. However, I also suggested that the two philosophies can be used in concert with one another. Indeed, as much as one can argue about the virtues of one philosophy or the other, science actually advances …Continue reading “The Cycle of Science”
Sherlock Holmes often talks about ‘deductive reasoning’ but was he really using deduction or induction? Although by definition these two approaches appear to be opposites, in practice, the differences between the two can be subtle. A simplified contrast between deductive and inductive reasoning is that deduction is reasoning from the top down and induction is …Continue reading “Is It ‘Deduction’ or ‘Induction’, My Dear Watson?”
This is a common question addressing a popular misconception about how science classifies the knowledge that it has accumulated. The levels of hypothesis to theory to law often get interpreted as classes of confidence. However, this is not really right. The missing piece here is spatial scale! It isn’t easy to draw the line for …Continue reading “Is It a Scientific Theory or Hypothesis?”
It can be hard to match what we learned about the scientific method in school with the scientific literature being published. There are a variety of reasons for this, but generally it is an issue of what is practical (especially within the time frames that sources of funding expect results). Because the classic description of …Continue reading “The Scientific Method: Does Anybody Really Use It?”
For my first blog post, it makes sense to start with the basics. And one of the most fundamental concepts for a researcher to establish is the definition of science. As a starting point, let’s begin with the definition from the Oxford dictionary (which is very similar to definitions found elsewhere): def. Science – the intellectual and …Continue reading “What is Science?”