Penn State Soil Characterization Lab

Soil is an integral part of ecosystem function. There are 29 million acres (11,735,884 hectares) of soil in Pennsylvania supporting: wetlands; forest lands; agricultural lands; urban lands; homes, businesses, and roads; our drinking and wastewater filtration. Without soil, these activities and functions would be much more difficult and in some cases even impossible, for soil is as precious to our lives as the very blood in our bodies.

Research in the Soil Characterization Laboratory focuses on people’s use of landscapes and the accompanying changes in soil function across the larger ecosystem the soil supports. Dr. Drohan’s research group addresses basic science questions, but also demonstrates how this new knowledge can be applied to improve land management and ecosystem stability.

Soil Characterization Lab News

January 20, 2022

MS students Emily Lesher and Sam Bayuzick graduate!

Both students accomplished an incredibly hard feat, especially given they were in graduate school during COVID.

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October 9, 2021

Lab members Elka Hoelsken and Abby Owens featured in Penn State news

This past summer, Hoelsken worked as an undergraduate researcher with Abigail Owens, a graduate student in soil science. Owens is studying the effect of Penn State’s Living Filter and wastewater practices on local soil. They searched for iron concentrations and depletions in the soil and bedrock that might interrupt the supply of groundwater.

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February 9, 2021

Changing cropping systems in impaired watersheds can produce water quality gains

PhD student Fei Jiang finds that growing the right crop in the right place within an impaired watershed can achieve significant water quality improvement. Jiang's research, published in Agricultural Systems, finds crop reallocation simulations resulted in a 15% reduction in total nitrogen losses, a 14% reduction in total phosphorus losses and a 39% reduction in sediment losses at an average annual scale across the watershed.

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February 9, 2021

Harvesting vegetation on riparian buffers barely reduces water-quality benefits

PhD student Fei Jiang finds that allowing farmers to harvest vegetation from their riparian buffers will not significantly impede the ability of those streamside tracts to protect water quality by capturing nutrients and sediment -- and it will boost farmers' willingness to establish buffers. Jiang's research is published in the Journal of Environmental Quality.

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