Ingrid Kögel-Knabner (Germany)
Name: Ingrid Kögel-Knabner
Address: Lehrstuhl für Bodenkunde,
Technische Universität München
Position: Professor of Soil Science (since 1995)
1. When did you decide to study soil science?
I first was intrigued by soils at the age of 18, when I had to choose a topic for a term paper. I choose to write about the restoration of soils after open cast brown coal mining in Germany, and got the best mark possible.
When I had to decide later in my geoecology studies between a major in soil science or hydrology, I was sure that soil science was my choice. I liked soil science because one can view, smell and touch soils, and I also liked the colours of soils. I have never regretted this choice.
2. Who has been your most influential teacher?
I had several inspiring teachers. Wolfgang Zech was an excellent teacher for soil science in general and even more so in the field. He was able to stimulate a desire to work with soils in each of his lectures. From Pat Hatcher I learned to use 13C NMR spectroscopy to investigate soil organic matter . He invited me to his lab (at this time one of the two labs world-wide doing 13C NMR spectroscopy of soil organic matter), inspired and teached me to work with this (at that time) emerging technique. Konrad Haider and J. Malcolm Oades were my guides as a postdoc when I started to work on more diversified fields of soil organic matter research. When arriving at Weihenstephan I had the chance for close interaction with Udo Schwertmann and learned more about soul minerals and specifically iron oxides. Thus I feel confident to work on organic and mineral materials and their interactions in soils.
3. What do you find most exciting about soil science?
It is fascinating to work with such a complex organo-mineral material. In soil science you can work with organic or mineral materials, or microbes or animals, or you can try to understand the complete system. Many many options for differently interested scientists.
4. How would you stimulate teenagers and young graduates to study soil science?
I asked my teenage daughter. Her answer is: You have to give the impression to be cool and easy. I guess that we already know this. So in my experience it is generally difficult to stimulate teenagers.
For my students I try to show my own enthusiasm for soils. I tell them what I find exciting in my work with soils. I tell them that choosing a career in science, and specifically soils science can provide for many good and rewarding moments in your life.
5. How do you see the future of soil science?
Bright! There are emerging new techniques to investigate soils in most of the soil disciplines. This refers to soil chemistry with the new analytical techniques at the nano or even atomic scale. With the imaging methods in soil physics we are able to understand the soil structure. All the new methods in soil biology allow to describe the microbial community structure and their functional traits. There are new methods operative at different scales from the nano-scale to the pedon and landscape scale. They span from elucidating the soils structure at submicron scales to digital soil mapping. This will bring our understanding of soils to a new level.