Agron/EnSci 665X – Digital Soil Mapping

Improved digital soil information is in high demand by crop, climate, and environmental modelers, among many other users of traditionally mapped soil surveys. Various digital soil mapping techniques are being implemented around the world, but there is little consensus on standardized practices. Because digital soil mapping is actively evolving, students interested in this topic need grounding in how to evaluate digital soil mapping products, their production methods, and arguments made by advocates of different approaches. Digital soil mapping is done best when it integrates the strengths of multiple fields, such as soil science, geography, and remote sensing. Therefore, the proposed course is an intensive, prescribed reading of articles that help synthesize the contributions of a variety of disciplines to the evolution of digital soil mapping.


Credit Hours: 3

Semesters Offered: Alt. Spring

Prerequisites: Prior experience with GIS and soil science

Course outcomes:

Students will understand the principles behind the modern tools for mapping soil digitally. Their level of understanding will include the strengths and weaknesses of the approaches, with recognition of under which circumstances different approaches will be the most successful. Understanding of soil processes will be applied to evaluate the resulting maps. This will be accomplished by students:

  • Being well versed in both key and recent research publications on digital soil mapping
  • Engaging in intellectual discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of specific research designs
  • Understanding the challenges for improving digital soil mapping
  • Creating a digital soil map from a given data set
  • Considering the connections between statistically identified patterns and processes of soil formation
  • Evaluating and communicating the uncertainty involved in the resulting soil map

Assessment plans:

As an upper level, graduate student course, emphasis will be put on the individual’s ability to synthesize and critically evaluate ideas in a group discussion with peers. Grading will be done on students’ oral presentation of assigned manuscripts, participation in group discussion of all manuscripts, two written assignments, and a final project. Students will be coached during the discussions to receive direct feedback. The course will conclude with a final project in which each student will apply the mapping methods of their choosing and evaluate the resulting soil maps.