JJ Ibanez (Spain)
Address: Centro de Investigaciones Sobre Desertificacion (CIDE-CSIC)-UN
Position: Senior researcher (since 1986)
1. When did you decide to study soil science?
When I was seventeen years old I started my University studies. When studying the subject of geology, I found a photo and a short commentary on soil profiles. For no reason, I decided that I would investigate that issue, but pedology was not taught at my school (Biological Sciences). When I was 23 years old I became as PhD student at the CSIC and started investigations in biology, biochemistry and soil ecology. My dissertation (1986) was on landscape ecology. By a series of extremely unlikely circumstances, the same year I obtained a senior position in pedology. It seems that my vocation was predestined!
2. Who has been your most influential teacher?
Professor Antonio Bello (CCMA, CSIC, and EPA Award), a soil ecologist and pathologist, began to teach me everything related to scientific activity. He encouraged me to be determined, brave and aggressive in my research. Professor Francisco Monturiol years later began my training in pedology. In many aspects I have been self-taught (spatial patterns analyses, complexity sciences, etc.).
3. What do you find most exciting about soil science?
The cryptic nature of the soil system. My academic background was that of an ecologist. Soon I realized that ecological theory lacked a lot of information concerning the great importance of soil. Thus, I tried to explore relationships between ecological communities and soils from different viewpoints. I have often been misunderstood by both soil scientists and ecologists, as I continued in this disciplinary boundary. As a soil scientist I understand that we are partly responsible for the lack of credibility that we are not in the mainstream of science.
4. How would you stimulate teenagers and young graduates to study soil science?
I am not a teacher in soil science. In my opinion the importance of soil in agronomy studies can be understand without difficulty by young people. I have never had problems of young people understanding the vital importance of soil resources. Possibly, talking as an ecologist it is easier to show the importance of soil resources because young people like ecology more than soil science topics, as does current mass media. As a pedologist I believe that we must teach others making use of their desires and interests, yet be rigorous. I do not usually like the style of soils manuals and handbooks; they tend to be boring.
5. How do you see the future of soil science?
I always thought that to solve external problems first internal ones must be solved. I worry about the lack of constructive self-criticism in our discipline and any lack of credibility must be resolved by ourselves. Currently, there are several alternatives influencing a paradigm shift in pedology: pedometrics thought, soil quality approaches, critical zone earth approaches. Sometimes, we do not listen to each other, thus we are not united. To achieve success requires not only talent, but also willingness to develop and maintain open, friendly cooperative dialogs. As of now I do not see enough of this attitude in our community of interests.
I think that pedometrics will be essential to achieve a paradigm shift, however classical pedologists and pedometicians do not listen well to each other. We need a constructive interchange of ideas and obtain consensus to move ahead in pedology. I am optimistic for the future.