New book – The Soils of the USA

the-soils-of-the-usa-book-coverUnder the co-editorship of Alfred Hartemink, a book on the soils of the USA has been published – the first comprehensive coverage of the soils since 1936. It has been written by 46 soil scientists from across the country. The book provides an overview of the distribution, properties, and function of soils in the USA, including Alaska, Hawaii, and its Caribbean territories. It discusses the history of soil surveys and pedological research, and offers descriptions of the climate, geology and geomorphology, pre-settlement and current vegetation, and land use, as well as the distribution and properties of major soils including their formation, classification, and management. The final chapters address topics such as soils and humans, and the future challenges for soil science and soil surveys. More information click here.

A book launch is scheduled for Tuesday, November 8 at the ASA/CSSA/SSSA 2016 Meetings in Phoenix, Arizona. Please join the editors and contributors of The Soils of the USA to celebrate the publication of this outstanding volume @ 4:45 pm in the Springer Exhibition Stand, Phoenix Convention Center North, Exhibit Hall CDE.

Know Soil Science Emeritus Professors


Gerhard Bjarne Lee was born November 27, 1917, the second oldest son of Peter and Agnes (Grevstad) Lee, on the family dairy farm near Deerfield, Wisconsin. He attended Liberty Prairie School, served in the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937 and graduated from Deerfield High School in 1938. From 1938 to 1942, he managed the family farm and from 1942 to 1946 served as an engineer in the 730th Engineering Company in New Guinea and the Philippines. He received his BS degree in agriculture with a major in soil science in 1948 and an MS in soil science in 1949 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After serving as assistant agronomist at South Dakota State from 1949 to 1951, he returned to Madison and received his PhD in soil science in 1955. During this time, he was also an instructor in the Department of Soil Science and worked for both the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey and the Soil Conservation Service of the USDA.   He was appointed assistant professor in the fall of 1956 and promoted to associate professor in 1960 and to professor of soil science and environmental studies in 1974. He helped create and was the first chair of the Land Resources graduate program and he served in that position for 6 years, helping it to grow to more than 75 students.

GB, as he was popularly known, was a superb teacher and interpreter of soil. He skillfully connected hands-on experience in the field with landscape elements and geological landforms. He was a kind, soft-spoken mentor, had great rapport with students who often sought him out through his always open door. In 1955, he began teaching Soil Morphology, and in 1973 initiated a popular class entitled Soils and Land Use Planning that was also expanded into a senior seminar.  He was an undergraduate student advisor for many soil science majors and advised numerous students in the Institute for Environmental Studies. Dr. Lee was major professor to 16 PhD and 34 MS degree candidates. His teaching was recognized with the Atwood Excellence in Teaching Award in 1978 and the Outstanding Advising Award in 1979.

He was appointed a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and won awards for teaching and advising. From 1974 to 1981 he was a leader in the American Society of Agronomy committee that initiated the National Committee for Certification of soil scientists, known as the America Registry of Certified Professionals in Agronomy, Crops and Soils  (ARCPACS). He was a member of and held leadership positions in a variety of professional associations including ARCPACS, the Soil Conservation Society of America, and the Wisconsin Society of Professional Soil Scientists.  Throughout his career, Dr. Lee was dedicated to teaching the principles of soil and land use and extending basic concepts to the wider community. He gave numerous public lectures and published many bulletins, fact sheets and commentaries on prudent land use.  He was a member of and held leadership positions in the Soil Conservation Society of America and the Wisconsin Society of Professional Soil Scientists.

His research in soil genesis, morphology and classification led to numerous publications. He was particularly well known for his work with wetlands and Histosols, the soils of marshes and wet places (see publication entry below as a sample of his writings). He studied soil erosion, use of remote sensing methods to assess the extent of soil losses from croplands, and he conducted some of the earliest work on floodplain delineation. He cooperated with other researchers defining the soil and soil characteristics important to their research, including some early work with organochlorine and organophosphate pesticides.

Dr. Lee retired in 1988 with Emeritus status.  In retirement, Gerhard spent a great deal of time managing and improving his farm near Cambridge.  He planted several acres of trees and restored a wetland.  He became a certified master gardener and volunteered as a docent at Olbrich Gardens in Madison.  As he had throughout his adult life, he maintained a garden and fruit trees at the family home in Madison. In all these endeavors, he was able to put into practice many of the principles he taught in his courses at the University.  He was active in the Koshkonong Prairie Historical Society. He also wrote a memoir about his life growing up on a farm. Gerhard loved the land, especially the area where he grew up.

Professor Lee was married to his wife Mildred for 57 years. Their family included four daughters, Susan (Jim Conant), Rebecca Lee (Jack Theel), Nancy (Fred) Stratman, and Judith Lee. Professor Lee died on February 19, 2006 in Madison, Wisconsin at the age of 88.  The Professor Gerhard B. and Mildred Lee Scholarship Fund has been established through the UW Foundation for student support in the Department of Soil Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Wisconsin Wetlands” (1976; UWEX, G2818) Paper-back – 1976 by D.A. Yanggen, C.D. Johnson, G.B. Lee, and L.R. Massie:  How do we resolve the conflicting demands for the use of wetlands? There is no easy answer. We must weigh the value of wetlands against the value they would have if converted to agricultural production, urban development, or other uses. The purpose of this publication is to provide information to help people come to their own decisions on how we should manage Wisconsin’s wetland resources.


Upcoming Emeritus profiles will include Osborne J. Attoe,  Richard B. Corey, Gordon Chesters, Lincoln E. Engelbert, Dennis R. Keeney, Robert J. Muckenhirn, John T. Murdock, Leo M. Walsh, and Sergei A. Wilde.




Thea Whitman Appointed O.N. Allen Professor

Whitman-headshot-croppedThea Whitman, assistant professor of soil science, has been appointed to the O.N. Allen Professorship in Soil Microbiology. The professorship, founded in honor of the late UW-Madison bacteriologist Oscar N. Allen, is designated to help support a faculty member in the Department of Soil Science doing work in the field of symbiotic nitrogen fixation or soil microbiology. The 5-year appointment comes with an annual stipend to support scholarship and research work.  Thea joined the department in January 2016. Her research focuses on organic matter cycling and the molecular and microbial mechanisms that drive it, seeking to understand the processes that control soil organic matter dynamics and interactions with microbes and minerals. The work combines soil biogeochemistry and microbiology with bioinformatics, molecular work and fieldwork, in order to conduct fundamental and applied research with relevance for land-use management, agroecology, and climate change policy.  Check out Thea’s recent blog posting for information about Oscar N. Allen and his wife and scientific partner Ethel K. Allen (


Joel Pedersen’s (UW-Madison Bascom Professor of Soil Science) research involves studying the biological impacts of nanomaterials, including how these materials interact with cell membranes. Joel is part of the collaborative, multidisciplinary JAP-1research group that makes up the UW-Madison-based Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology.  His research was recently featured in the online eCALS news.  To view the full story on this intriguing research, visit eCALS

Award Ceremony Held

undergrads 2016

Left to right: Chee Thao, Kyle Kazmierczak, Daniel Dryer, Sean Fischer, Jacob Kruse, and Alfred Hartemink (Dept. of Soil Science chair). Not pictured: Logan Mohr and Durrell Naquin.

On Friday, April 22, the Department of Soil Science held an award ceremony for our Soil Science undergraduates.  The program started with a talk by Steve Ventura, who provided an historical context of Earth Day and the work of Gaylord Nelson. The award ceremony was led by Julie Garvin, who gave an overview of the student’s aspirations and interest in soils, and included a few wise words for their future.  It was followed by a reception in the Student Lounge.  Award Recipients are as follows:  Charles L. Ream Memorial Scholarship (2016-17): Daniel Dryer, Sean Fischer, Jacob Kruse, Logan Mohr, Durrell Naquin. Wis. Ag-Lime Association Scholarship (2016-17): Chee Thao. O.R. Zeasman Memorial Scholarship (2016-17): Kyle Kazmierczak. Charles O. Newlin Scholarship in Turfgrass Management (awarded in Feb for this current spring semester): Logan Mohr

Recently Published Book

Progress in Soil Science

Series Editors:  Alfred E. Hartemink • Alex B. McBratney

 Digital Soil Morphometrics

Alfred E. Hartemink • Budiman Minasny, Editors

This book is about digital soil morphometrics which is defined as the application of instruments and techniques for measuring, mapping and quantifying soil profile properties, and deriving depth functions of soil properties.  The book is structured along four research topics:  (i) Soil profile properties, (ii) Soil profile imaging, (iii) Soil depth functions, and (iv) Use and applications.  The pedon is at the heart of digital soil morphometrics.  The use of digital soil morphometrics exceeds the pedology and soil classification purpose that is currently serves – it is used in rapid soil assessment that is needed in a range of biophysical studies.  Digital soil morphometrics has the potential to enhance our understanding of soils and how we view them.  This book presents highlights from The IUSS Inaugural Global Workshop on Digital Soil Morphometrics held in June 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

The Leo M. Walsh Distinguished Lecture in Soil Science

lehmannDr. Johannes Lehmann (Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, Soil and Crop Sciences Section, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York) will present The Leo M. Walsh Distinguished Lecture in Soil Science entitled “Soil Organic Matter Formation:  Concepts and Controversies” on Wednesday, April 20 @ 3:30 pm in Room 270 Soils Bldg.

Abstract – Soil organic matter is a defining feature of soils and underpins much of its ecosystem services, influencing soil fertility, water quality and greenhouse gas emissions. Yet its nature and formation are still debated. Interactions of organic matter with soil mineral surfaces and aggregation are seen as key to its persistence, but have not been explicitly included in soil organic matter models. While pyrogenic carbon is increasingly recognized as an important component of organic matter in many soils, its mineralization does not match the time scales of litter decomposition to fit seamlessly into existing soil carbon models. The concept of humification is still propagated in the literature and research on humic substances extracts is in fact increasing in the environmental and water sciences. Consolidating existing concepts of soil organic matter cycles is therefore urgently needed, and this presentation discusses some recent evidence that may also inform carbon sequestration in soil as a way to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

A reception will immediately follow Dr. Lehmann’s presentation.  This lecture is made possible by the generosity of Leo M. Walsh and the Leo M. Walsh Distinguished Lecture in Soil Science Fund.

Sharon Long Receives CALS Award

long_md Congratulations to Sharon Long (Professor, UW-Madison Department of Soil Science) on receiving the 2016 CALS Equity and Diversity Award. The award will be presented at the CALS Awards Program on Wednesday, May 4. The program will begin at 3 pm in the Ebeling Symposium Center in the Microbial Sciences Bldg. and a reception will follow. Look for more details at a later date. We are very pleased that Sharon has received this well-deserved honor for her many contributions not only to the Department but to CALS and the whole university!

National Competition Selects Three Winners to Advance Water Entrepreneurship, Resiliency and Sustainability

barak_labNRU, Nutrient Recovery & Upcycling, LLC,, was one of three winners in the Empowering Opportunities in Water competition conducted by The Water Council (a nonprofit based in Milwaukee), the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and Veolia (a global company specializing in resource management, including water). NRU is a spin-off company from the Barak Lab in the Department of Soil Science at the UW-Madison, with the goal of commercializing the intellectual property developed in that lab. The three principals of NRU are Professor Phillip Barak, Mauricio Avila (MS, Soil Sci., 1999; PhD, Soil Sci., 2004) and Menachem Tabanpour (President of NRU). This award recognizes a patented technology to recover phosphate in the form of brushite from wastewater treatment plants.  For more information on NRU, check out their promotional video.  (

Lithium Battery Catalyst Found to Harm Key Soil Microorganism


The material at the heart of the lithium ion batteries that power electric vehicles, laptop computers and smartphones has been shown to impair a key soil bacterium, according to new research published online in the ACS journal Chemistry of Materials. The study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin (UW) – Madison and the University of Minnesota is an early signal that the growing use of the new nanoscale materials used in the rechargeable batteries that power portable electronics and electric and hybrid vehicles warrant evaluation for their potential environmental consequences. The research team led by UW-Madison chemistry Professor Robert J. Hamers explored the effects of the emerging battery cathode material nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) on the common soil and sediment bacterium Shewanella oneidensis. “As far as we know, this is the first study that’s looked at the environmental impact of these materials,” says Hamers, who collaborated with the laboratories of University of Minnesota chemist Christy Haynes and UW-Madison soil scientist Joel Pedersen to perform the new work.

See for the full article.