Katharine Butler

Katharine Butler

  • Senior Lecturer in Soil Science
214 Agricultural Sciences and Industries Building
University Park, PA 16802


  • M.S., Soil Science, The Pennsylvania State University, 1997
  • B.S., Earth Science, The Pennsylvania State University, 1993

Responsibilities and Interests

My major responsibility is to coordinate and co-teach Soils 101, the introductory soil course, with Dr. Rick Stehouwer. I work with a team of graduate student lab instructors and undergraduate teaching assistants to manage and teach the lab portion of the course. I am also the instructor for Soils 489 - Supervised Experience in College Teaching—the course for the undergraduate teaching assistants (UGTAs).

My recent research interest is studying the relationship between soils and societies; the effect that soils and other natural resources have had on the development of civilizations and societies throughout history and, conversely, the impact that these civilizations and societies have had on native soils and other natural resources. I am also interested in a broad range of pedagogic issues such as: achieving equitable learning experiences across numerous small sections of large lecture classes; effectiveness of weekly teaching team meetings on conformity and grade equity in large lecture, multiple section classes; the use of case studies in large, introductory level courses; and small group dynamics where diversity of group members (geographic, cultural, and major educational interest) is maximized.

Other research interests include: soil fertility, especially soil inorganic nitrogen with the focus on the dynamics and distribution of inorganic nitrogen under grazed pastures; the geologic and pedogenic processes as well as the chemical and physical processes of of coastal marshes and acid mine soils. Additional research has been in paleontology, especially marine invertebrates (bryozoans) from the Ordovician Period.

I developed and taught Soils 497H (Soils, Civilizations, and Societies), a course with an optional field trip to Turkey and Jordan (Spring 2007), and Soils 901A (Introduction to Soils and Soil Properties for the 2-yr Turf Management Certificate program).

I am also very involved in teaching and outreach to pre-college students and recruitment for our Departmental majors. For fun I enjoy walking, hiking, cycling, and reading.


  • 100% Teaching

Courses Taught


Professional Background

  • 2001 to present, Sr. Lecturer in Agronomy, The Pennsylvania State University. Coordinate and teach Introductory Soils labs and Supervised College Teaching; teach Soils, Civilizations, and Societies and Introduction to Soils and Soil Properties; recruitment for our majors and pre-college outreach.
  • 1998–2001, Instructor in Agronomy, The Pennsylvania State University. Coordinate labs for Introductory Soils, revise and teach Supervised College Teaching, and co-teach Soil Microbiology
  • 1996–1998, Lecturer in Agronomy, The Pennsylvania State University. Responsible for coordinating labs for Introductory Soils and for revising and teaching the Supervised College Teaching course.
  • 1993–1996, Teaching Assistant and Instructor for the Marine Science Consortium, Wallops Island, VA. Helped in teaching coastal geology and biology courses for Penn State's Marine Science program.
  • 1993–1996, Graduate Assistant, Department of Agronomy, The Pennsylvania State University. Graduate work with Dr. Richard H. Fox studying the distribution of soil inorganic nitrogen under grazed pastures. As a graduate student I taught a lab section for Soils 402, Chemistry of Soils and Fertilizers, with Dr. Fox, and also taught a lab section of Soils 101, the introductory soils course.

Selected Publications

  1. Butler, K.L. and D.D. Fritton. 2004. Geography and Diversity of Interest: Assigning Students to Groups in an Introductory Soils Class. In 2004 Annual Meeting Abstracts. ASA/CSSA/SSSA, Madison, WI
  2. Butler, K.L., M.J. Schlossberg and M.A. Fidanza. 2003. The Sanford Stadium Problem: A Case Study for Upper and Lower Level Soils Classes. In 2003 Annual Meeting Abstracts. ASA/CSSA/SSSA, Madison, WI.
  3. Butler, K.L. and H.D. Karsten. 2002. Peer Possibilities: Undergraduate Teaching Assistants for Introductory Agronomy and Soils Courses. In 2002 Annual Meeting Abstracts. ASA/CSSA/SSSA, Madison, WI.
  4. Drohan, P.J. and K.L. Butler, 2002. Evaluating Teaching Consistency and Equity across Multiple Laboratory Sections. J. Nat. Resource. Life Sci. Educ., Vol. 31, p. 73. ASA/CSSA/SSSA, Madison, WI.
  5. Butler, K.L. and P.J. Drohan. 2001. Feats and failures; achieving consistency among multiple TAs of large introductory courses. In 2001 Annual Meeting Abstracts. ASA/CSSA/SSSA, Madison, WI.
  6. Butler, K.L. and P.J. Drohan. 1999. Many Instructors — One Class: an Insurmountable Challenge? p. 5. In 1999 Annual Meeting Abstracts. ASA/CSSA/SSSA, Madison, WI.
  7. Butler, K.L. 1997. Soil Inorganic Nitrogen Distribution Under Grazed Pastures. M.S. thesis. The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
  8. Butler, K.L., R.H. Fox, J.D. Jabro, S.L. Fales and W.L. Stout. 1996. Soil Inorganic Nitrogen Distribution Under Grazed Pastures. p. 250. In Agronomy abstracts. ASA Madison, WI.
  9. Butler, K.L., and R. J. Cuffey. 1996. Reduced bryozoan diversity and paleoenvironmental stress in the Saluda Dolomite (uppermost Ordovician, southeastern Indiana). p. 55–61. In D.P. Gordon, A.M. Smith, and J.A. Grant-Mackie Bryozoans in Space and Time. Proc. 10th International Bryozoology Conference, Wellington, New Zealand, 1995. National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd, Wellington, N.Z.