Gary Petersen, Ph.D.

Gary Petersen, Ph.D.

  • Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Soil and Land Resources
414 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802


  • Ph.D., Soil Genesis and Morphology, University of Wisconsin, 1965
  • M.S., Soil Chemistry, University of Wisconsin, 1963
  • B.S., Soil Science, University of Wisconsin, 1961

Responsibilities and Interests

Areas of specialization include pedology, landscape and watershed processes, land use, remote sensing, and geographic information systems.

Academic efforts have centered on the application of soil and agronomic sciences to planning the uses and management of land. Major areas of focus have included landscape analysis, watershed modeling, water quality, on-site waste disposal, precision agriculture, and rural/urban interfaces. Remote sensing and geographic information systems have been used to increase our understanding of soil/landscape/hydrologic processes at multiple scales. Interdisciplinary approaches have included scientists from other disciplines as well as decision-makers from government and business. Research has been conducted in humid, semi-arid, arid, tropical and arctic regions. Involvement in international development and research activities in Kenya, Tanzania, Mexico, China, and Australia. Authored or co-authored 150+ publications. Courses taught include introductory soils, soil morphology, soil mapping and land use, soil characterization and classification, soil information systems, and geograhic information system applications.


Professional Background

  • Assistant Professor, Department of Agronomy, The Pennsylvania State University, 1965–1970.
  • Associate Professor, Department of Agronomy, The Pennsylvania State University, 1970–1976.
  • Visiting Associate Professor, Water Resources Center, University of Wisconsin, 1974–1975.
  • Visiting Professor, Australian National University, 1994.
  • Co-director, Office for Remote Sensing of Earth Resources, The Pennsylvania State University, 1970–present.
  • Professor, Department of Agronomy, The Pennsylvania State University, 1976–2000.
  • Distinguished Professor, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 2000–2005.
  • Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 2005–present.

Honorary Positions and Awards

  • Fellow, SSSA and ASA, 1981
  • Teaching Award, NE Branch, ASA, 1982
  • Research Award, NE Branch, ASA, 1985
  • Teaching Award, Gamma Sigma Delta, 1981
  • Research Award, Gamma Sigma Delta, 1984
  • Black Award for Excellence in Research, 1991
  • President, Gamma Sigma Delta, 1993–1994
  • President, Keystone Chapter of the Soil Conservation Society of America, 1978–1979
  • Member, National Academy of Sciences Delegation to China, 1991
  • Member, SPOT Image Corporation Academic Advisory Council, 1995–present
  • Member, Editorial Board, Transactions in GIS, 1995–present
  • Member, National Academy of Sciences Committee on Watershed Management, 1996–present

Contributions to Human Welfare Through Professional Activities

Teaching and research contributed to a better understanding of the interrelatedness of soils and land use with agriculture and environmental issues. Society has benefited by contributions which have provided a basis for environmentally sound and economically desirable land use decisions. Statewide assessment and quantification of nonpoint pollution problems have helped to protect surface and ground water and to evaluate potential threats to drinking water supplies. Served on advisory panels and as consultant to over 50 US and state agencies, businesses and industries. Interdisciplinary approaches have helped to build partnerships with the academic community, business and governemental organizations. Promoted the role of soils in the ecosystem and in land use through teaching, research, committee involvement, and outreach activities.

Selected Publications

  1. Drohan, P. J., G. W. Petersen and S. L. Stout. 2002. A study of sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh) decline during 1979 to 1989 in northern Pennsylvania (For. Ecol. And Mgmt). (In press)
  2. Drohan, P. J., G. W. Petersen and E. J. Ciolkosz. 2002. Soil survey mapping unit accuracy in forested field plots in northern Pennsylvania (Soil Sci. Soc. of Amer. Journal). (In press)
  3. Brian A. Needelman, William J. Gburek, Andrew N. Sharpley, and Gary W. Petersen. 2001. Environmental Management of Soil Phosphorus: Modeling Spatial Variability in Small Fields. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 65:1516-1522. Abstract.
  4. Egide L. Nizeyimana, G.W. Petersen, M.L. Imhoff, H.R. Sinclair, Jr., S.W. Waltman, D.S. Reed-Margetan, E.R. Levine, and J.M. Russo. 2001. Assessing the Impact of Land Conversion to Urban Use on Soils with Different Productivity Levels in the USA. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 65:391–402. Abstract.
  5. Petersen, G.W., J.M. Hamlett, S. Harrison, S.R. Messier, B.M. Evans, G.M. Baumer and M.C. Anderson. 1996. GIS pesticide vulnerability assessment procedure for Pennsylvania public water systems. ER9601. Environmental Resources Research Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. 56 pp.
  6. Nizeyimana, Egide, G.W. Petersen, M.C. Anderson, B.M. Evans, J.M. Hamlett and G.M. Baumer. 1996. Statewide GIS/census data assessment of nitrogen loadings from septic tank systems in Pennsylvania. J. Environ. Qual. 25:346–354.
  7. Petersen, G.W., J.C. Bell, K. McSweeney, G.A. Nielsen, and P.C. Robert. 1995. Geographic Information Systems in Agronomy. Advances in Agronomy 55:67–111.
  8. Hamlett, J.M., T. Mertz, and J.W. Petersen. 1995 GIS targets agricultural nonpoint source pollution. 'In' Wetland and Environmental Engineering Applications of GIS. Eds. J. Lyon Lewis, and J. McCarthy, Publishers, Boca Raton, Fl. pp. 159–172.
  9. Petersen, G.W., J.M. Russo, R.L. Day, C.T. Anthony, and J. Pollack. 1993. Importance of spatial variability in agricultural decision support systems. Soil Specific Crop Management. American Society of Agronomy, Special Publication, American Society of Agronomy, Madison, WI. pp. 167–179.
  10. Hamlett, J. M., D. A. Miller, R. L. Day, G. W. Petersen, G. M. Baumer, and J. M. Russo.1992. Statewide GIS-based ranking of watersheds for agricultural pollution prevention. J. Soil and Water Cons. 47(5):399–404.
  11. Petersen, G. W., J. M. Hamlett, G. M. Baumer, D. A. Miller, R. L. Day, and J. M. Russo. 1991. Evaluation of agricultural nonpoint pollution potential in Pennsylvania using a geographic information system. Final report for grant no. ME89279. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources. Harrisburg, PA. 60 pp.
  12. Petersen, G.W., G.A. Nielsen and L.P. Wilding. 1991. Geographic information systems and remote sensing in land resources analysis and management. Suelo y Planta 1:531–543.
  13. Petersen, G.W., J.M. Russo, R.L. Day, and J.C. Bell. 1990. Generating high resolution resource data bases for global applications. Proceedings of the International Conference and Workshop on Global Natural Resource Monitoring and Assessments: Preparing for the 21st century. Venice, Italy. pp. 312–319.
  14. Petersen, G. W., D. A. Miller, R. L. Day, K. C. Sasowsky, and B. M. Evans. 1990. An introduction to geographic information systems and their role in soil and hydrologic studies. Proceedings of Soil and Erosion Productivity Workshop. University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN. 105–116. pp.
  15. Irons, J.R., R.A. Weismiller and G.W. Petersen. 1989. Soil Reflectance. Theory and Applications of Optical Remote Sensing. John Wiley and Sons, New York, N.Y. pp. 66–106.
  16. Petersen, G. W., K. F. Connors, D. A. Miller, R. L. Day and T. W. Gardner. 1987. Aircraft and satellite remote sensing of desert soils and landscapes. Remote Sens. of Environ. 23:253–271.
  17. Petersen, G. W. and M. T. Beatty (ed.). 1981. Planning future land uses. Am. Soc. of Agron. Special Publication No. 42. Am. Soc. of Agron., Madison, Wisconsin. 71 pp.
  18. Beatty, M. T., G. W. Petersen, and L. D. Swindale (ed.). 1979. Planning the uses and management of land. Am. Soc. of Agron. Monograph 21. Am. Soc. of Agron., Madison, Wisconsin. 1028 pp.