Coastal marshes, North Dakota oil and gas, and rattlesnakes to boot...summer of 2013 was busy!

Posted: August 28, 2013

During summer of 2013 a lot happened in the Penn State Soil Characterization Lab. We visited 5 different states for research projects, sampled a couple of hundred soils, and managed to take a break for a swim in the Atlantic ocean.
Northeastern Graduate Student Pedology Field Trip snack break

Northeastern Graduate Student Pedology Field Trip snack break

Our summer started off with the hiring of recent Penn State Grad Mitch Fleming and soon to graduate Jacob Gogno. Mitch and Jake, both recent Penn State Soil Judgers, were hired to assist in sampling support of our shale-gas landscape change research and our USDA-AFRI and NRCS wet-soils monitoring projects across Pennsylvania.

We then set off to the Northeastern Graduate Student Pedology Field Trip (SOILS 516 at PSU) hosted by the University of Maryland (Drs. Rabenhorst and Needelman). The trip began on the Eastern Shore and ran into the Ridge and Valley Province west of Frederick, MD. Field stops included dune systems on Assateague Island, wetland soils in a variety of ecosystems, coastal marsh soils and ecosystems experiencing sea-level rise, upland soils derived from marble in the Piedmont region, and marl-derived soils near Frederick Maryland. During the stop at Assateague students had time for a quick dip in the Atlantic Ocean (even if it was a little cold).

Field work began soon upon our return. Mitch and Jacob assisted Cody Fink in his M.S. thesis measurements of the physical changes in soils across conventional and unconventional gas development in Pennsylvania. In addition, Jacob and Mitch helped collect data on hundreds of hydric and non-hydric soils for a new model of hydric soil distribution that Cody is developing for the Allegheny Plateau. During one of Jake's forays into the Pennsylvania Wilds he came across one of the largest rattlesnakes any of us had seen...about 6 feet long. Jacob and Mitch also helped PhD student Lauren Vitko with her geophysical and hydrology data collection in support of the Fertilizer Forecaster project. PhD student Paul Roth continued his thesis work on long-term landscape change due to shale-gas development, and new PhD student Shauna-Kay Rainford arrived! Shauna-Kay is a graduate of Cornell and will be working on examining soil carbon dynamics in different types of wetlands experiencing gradients of disturbance.

Meanwhile, Dr. Drohan was off attending the National Cooperative Soil Survey meeting in Annapolis, MD with Post-Doc Dr. Alex Ireland, attending the Soil Science Society of America's Council of Soil Science Examiners Exam writing session in Madison, WI, and giving an invited talk on the effects of unconventional gas development on agriculture at the MonDak Ag showcase in Williston, North Dakota. Dr. Drohan also traveled to New England with Jacob Gogno to assist in an orchard monitoring study across beautiful New England led by USDA-ARS scientist Dr. Tracy Leskey. To top it off, Dr. Drohan spent part of his vacation relaxing and doing trail work as a volunteer with the Adirondack Mountain Club at Long Lake, NY.

Stay tuned for upcoming Fall news.