Hossein Khademi (Iran)
Position:Professor of Soil Science (Environmental Pedology
and Mineralogy)Dean of Graduate Studies, IUT
Address:Department of Soil Science, College of Agriculture
Isfahan University of Technology (IUT), Isfahan 84156, Iran
1. When did you decide to study soil science?
In 1984, during the final year of my undergraduate degree in Agricultural Sciences at the Isfahan University of Technology (Iran), I had to choose about 20 credit units from one of the four major subjects including Agronomy and Plant Breeding, Horticultural Science, Soil Science and Plant Protection. I decided to take soil science courses which developed my interest in this subject and further encouraged me to continue my education in Soil Science later at both M.Sc. and Ph.D levels.
2. Who has been your most influential teacher?
It is, in fact, very difficult to answer this question because many distinguished teachers influenced my academic career. Among them are Dr. M. Kalbasi and Dr. A. Jalalian from the Department of Soil Science at the Isfahan University of Technology (Iran), Dr. A.R. Mermut from the Department of Soil Science, University of Saskatchewn, Saskatoon, Canada and Dr. R.H. Krouse from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada, who undoubtedly had a great contribution to my understanding of science, in general, and that of soils, in particular. I can never forget the first session of the course 'Introduction to Soil Science' I had with Dr. Kalbasi when he started defining Pedology and Edaphology and elaborating their significance. Later on, I learned a lot about Soil Chemistry from him. Dr. Jalalian was my M.Sc thesis supervisor who taught me that the soil and landscapes themselves were the best teachers for Soil Scientists. What I learned from Dr. Mermut, my Ph.D. supervisor, is that dedication and hard working are the keys for success in research. Dr. Krouse, a physicist, taught me how basic sciences, such as physics, could be used to answer some of the major questions in applied sciences like Pedology.
3. What do you find most exciting about soil science?
To me, soil variability in space and time is the fundamental reason why soil science as a scientific discipline exists. Variability in soil properties results from changes in soil forming factors and also the modifications (mostly adverse) made by anthropogenic activities. If soils were of the same kind and origin from small to large scales, we would not have spent so much time and effort on soil related research. Scale dependency of soil variability is especially exciting. When you look at the soil particles under a transmission or scanning electron microscope with a magnification of more than 100000 times, you still observe a world of diversity and variability as you are outside in the field watching with your naked eyes the beauty of diversity in soils, landscapes, vegetations and so on.
4. How would you stimulate teenagers and young graduates to study soil science?
It is extremely difficult these days to convince the new generation to choose soil science as a discipline for study and work, particularly in the developing countries where easy-to-do kinds of jobs are more attractive in terms of income they provide. In such conditions, it is essential to communicate the fascination and importance of soils to school students and also to school teachers. In my opinion, teenagers and young graduates should be taken out to the real world where they can see the interaction between soils and living phenomena. They need to see how and why soils are different so that they can have a better understanding of why different soils should be managed differently. The importance of soil from different aspects has to be well advertised.
5. How do you see the future of soil science?
Soil Science will continue to play an important role as a scientific discipline as long as the soil and the human populations that depend on the soil endure. Apart from the traditional task of Soil Scientists in sustainable agriculture, they have much to offer in understanding how soils influence, drive and control other important processes linked to soil contamination and atmospheric pollution. Global warming and environmental pollutions appear to be today's top international issues. Even if we are very optimistic, the world population would still increase but with a much lower rate. The anthropogenic activities would continue disturbing and degrading the ecosystem. So, just like the last few decades, environment related problems would still remain as top priorities on the agenda of scientists, particularly Soil Scientists, to explore methods to remediate the contaminated soils and to reclaim the degraded lands. As we collect more and more information about our soils, the need to link our information with other applied sciences would more necessitate the diversity in our tasks. We definitely need to do more team work and conduct multidisciplinary research in future with the cooperation of scientists such as Ecologists, Biologists, Geologists, Chemists and Engineers.
Getting involved in examining soils (or soil-like materials) from other planets in future also seems to be within the reach of Soil Scientists of the new millennium. Let's see what the next generations of Soil Scientists would do with the soils which cover the planet earth as well as the top mantle of perhaps other planets! Soil Scientists would perhaps find new issues to handle in future. Nevertheless, they would never seem to lose their current linkage with food, feed and fiber.