Jim Gauld (UK)

Jim Gauld (UK)

Age: 66

Address: IUSS Office, Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen .AB15 8 QH, Scotland


Position: Soil Survey of Scotland 1967 to 2005, latterly as Head of Soil Survey and Land Evaluation within Macaulay Research and Consultancy Services;currently Treasurer to International Union of Soil Sciences.

1. When did you decide to study soil science?

My initial studies in soil science commenced as an undergraduate in the Department of Soil Science at Aberdeen University in 1963. Prior to that I had spent many happy vacations on Newton Farm in Glenbuchat(40 miles due west of Aberdeen) and one summer in 1960(or thereabouts!!!) had been sent by the local farmer to investigate the activities of two persons digging soil pits and recording vegetation on Tom na Gabhar hill. It transpired they were Eric Birse and colleague from the Macaulay Institute. I reported back that their activities appeared harmless but fascinating. perhaps the seeds had been sown for my future career.

2.Who has been your most influential teacher?

Without question my most influential teacher has been Fitz(Dr E.A.Fitzpatrick) whose lectures at Aberdeen University on pedology were an inspiration while his interest and teachings on micromorphology and soil classification led to many stimulating discussions and debate. After joining the Soil survey of Scotland, Sandy Walker, through his constant promotion of soil maps, at a variety of scales, to a wide range of environmental topics, was a major influence, which undoubtedly fashioned my future career. The satisfaction derived from this applied work has never diminished.

3. What do you find most exciting about soil science?

The range of scientific topics encompassed within the general heading of 'soil science' never ceases to  amaze me. These fields are ever increasing and can be applied at a variety of scales to an ever increasing range of topics demonstrating the overall importance of soils to mankind. Effective  soil management is essential as world populations increase and food reserves become at risk through inappropriate exploitation of the soil. Away from the science itself, researchers can find great satisfaction through interaction with politicians, policy -makers and the general public, from primary children to pensioners, to demonstrate and convince them that soil science is essential to maintain sustainable management of life on this vulnerable planet.

4.How would you stimulate teenagers and young graduates to study soil science?

New Zealand has to be complimented on two great achievements. Their All Blacks rugby team in never losing to Scotland and the person who invented the slogan 'never treat soils like dirt'. The latter fact should be stressed to all primary pupils .Soil as a medium for growth and with special characteristics e.g. texture and infiltration should be highlighted with basic experiments in the classroom. At secondary level the curriculum could incorporate more sophisticated physical and chemical experiments to characterise soils rather than the current situation in Scottish schools where soils are taught in the geography classroom and the emphasis is on the features of podzols, brown earths, gleys and peats with all tropical soils lumped into ferrasols. For undergraduates ,finding a university teaching soil science might be difficult in the first instance !!Journals such as the excellent 'Soil Use and Management' should become compulsory reading to highlight not only the wide range of soil science applications but also the current and future challenges to be addressed using both accepted and new scientific procedures and technological studies

5.How do you see the future of soil science?

I remain the eternal optimist and see a bright future for soil science. I have, however, concerns that in the UK, universities are no longer teaching the discipline as a degree subject and that soil surveyors belong ,in part ,to the 'retired' generation.Perhaps in developed countries soil science has been a victim of its own success but continued training of soil scientists to address new issues is required and is essential for developing countries where past soil research has been minimal. In the future soil scientists will play a pivotal role in addressing the complex issues such as those relevant to land use change ,different forms of pollution, climate change impacts, securing food security ,different impacts on soils and biodiversity. This has to be achieved by re-defining soil science education and achieving more integration with scientists in allied fields. Finally soil scientists must become more proactive and effective in communicating to politicians ,policy makes and the general public about issues where success in our subject has been achieved. Only through such initiatives will new students ,irrespective of their age, be attracted and excited about soil science both as a topic worthy of study and a worthwhile career.

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Page created: 12.02.2015 | Page updated: 13.02.2015

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