Barbara Wick (Germany)
Address:Humboldt University BerlinDepartment of Soil Science and Site ScienceInvalidenstr.
42, 10115 Berlin, Germany
Position:lecturer and scientist
1. When did you decide to study soil science?
I became interested in soils during my graduate studies of Biological Sciences at the University of Bremen, Germany. I had an excellent soil ecology course taught by Prof. Weidemann where I learned how soil faunal composition and nutrient cycling are influenced by different soils and landscapes (geestland and marshland). I developed a special interest for soil-plant interrelationships, and soils and their life are since then an important aspect of my scientific portfolio.
2. Who has been your most influential teacher?
Several people contributed at different stages of my career to shape my understanding of science and soils. My most influential teacher during my post-graduate studies of Tropical Agronomy in Gottingen, Germany was Horst F lster. He was genuine and has provided great inspiration to better understand the variability of soil properties in the landscape. Paul Vlek and Ronald Kahne encouraged me during my Ph.D. work on soil quality and indicators to develop scientific creativity. Holm Tiessen taught me what it means to be a scientist. He learnt me valuable lessons about the need to be innovative in your research and to develop visions; there is always a solution to your problems ('think').
3. What do you find most exciting about soil science?
Soils are one of the most precious and vulnerable natural resources on earth and of humankind. Life on earth and our existence is tightly coupled to the well-being of soils. Soil science is a truly interdisciplinary science, and integrates natural science, socio-economical and policy aspects at local, regional and global scales.
4. How would you stimulate teenagers and young graduates to study soil science?
Generating enthusiasm or curiosity among students takes a lot of commitment and passion. I try to stimulate interest in soils by focusing on interdisciplinarity (see above). I motivate my graduate students by providing opportunities for graduate research. I always encourage them to develop own ideas and visions. I send them to conferences to get exposed to the scientific community and atmosphere. Last but not least respect is what counts.
5. How do you see the future of soil science?
In my view soil science is becoming more and more important of our life; it is no longer seen as Cinderella-science appealing to another type of soil-freak digging dirt. The focus on purely technical issues is now of less importance and the science of soils is more and more being recognized and appreciated as important natural resource that makes up our daily life. Protecting soils from further deterioration by human activities and providing enough food at the same time is one of the greatest challenges we have to solve.