Eswaran Padmanabhan (Malaysia)
Address:47, Jalan Tepak 11/8, Seksyen 11,
Shah Alam 40000, Selangor, Malaysia
Position:Land Management Consultant (since 2002),
ECYRES Technology, Adjunct Assoc. Prof.
(since 2005) Malaysia University of Science and Technology
1. When did you decide to study soil science?
After graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Geology, I had the challenging task of evaluating stability of slope cuts along major highways in my country. Soon, I realized the significance of understanding the impact of parent rock - soil mantle relationships on the stability of slope cuts. ITC Gent offered me the prestigious Rijk Universiteit Ghent scholarship to pursue a Masters degree in Soil Science. This was back in 1989.
2. Who has been your most influential teacher?
Over at ITC Gent, all the teachers were excellent and dedicated. However, I was particularly impressed by one Prof. Dr. Eric van Ranst. He had an excellent knowledge on clay mineralogy and made the subject matter extremely simple to comprehend by the group of international students. What attracted my attention most was the fact that he was a person with positive attitude, was always energetic, inspirational and above all, well respected by the students and his peers. He is currently the Director of ITC Gent, Belgium.
3. What do you find most exciting about soil science?
Currently, I do a lot of work on tropical Histosols on a professional basis. I have worked on Oxisols and related soils for my PhD in Saskatoon, under the NSERC assistantship program and continue to work on such soils in several of my projects, even today. There is always something new to ponder about pertaining to the genesis, morphology or mineralo-chemistry of the soils of the tropics. A lot of questions remain unanswered on mineral interactions and pore-solution chemistry in this tropical environment. There is still a lack of knowledge on the resilience of such soils under various kinds of management practices. Despite having identified many good research topics to pursue on tropical Histosols and LAC soils, I find myself limited and curbed by lack of opportunities to carry out such studies.
4. How would you stimulate teenagers and young graduates to study soil science?
I suppose being enthusiastic about the subject matter would be a good place to start. Generating curiosity among students and younger generation takes a lot of commitment. Creating appropriate websites and e-discussion groups is one way. My passion for soil science encouraged me to start the Tropical Soil Science e-network
in 2001, where I tried to achieve precisely this. The e-network has about 780 active members to date. I have noticed that on many occasions, students from various parts of the world have been recommended to join this site by their supervisors or peers.
5. How do you see the future of soil science?
In my opinion, soil science in this region has a good future. This is primarily due to increasing attention being given to concepts on willingness-to-pay for changes in soil quality, soil remediation, resilience, deforestation and soil erosion, land degradation, C-sequestration in agricultural soils and global warming, conservation of eco-systems and plantation agriculture by governments and private industries. The emphasis in this region appears to be shifting towards environmentally sustainable management practices. This move is opening more avenues for research and development while focusing on long-term R.O.I. With increasing environmental awareness, our role as soil scientists will definitely play a vital role in all land management projects. It is therefore, imperative that soil scientists maintain a positive outlook and attitude while dedicating themselves to conserving and managing the non-renewable soil resources of this world. After all, we have borrowed this land from our children.