Lyn Abbott (Australia)
Address: School of Earth and Geographical Sciences
Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences,
The University of Western Australia, Crawley,
Western Australia 6009
Position: Professor and Head of School
1. When did you decide to study soil science?
I did not make a clear decision to study soil science 'it began as part of my botany degree' the aspect of soil science I studied first was soil microbiology.
2. Who has been your most influential teacher?
I was inspired to study soil microbiology by a plant pathologist, Dr Peter Valder, at the University of Sydney.
3. What do you find most exciting about soil science?
I am very enthusiastic about the fact that soil is the skin of the earth and as such is so essential for life on our planet. I enjoy thinking about soil as a habitat for an enormously diverse array of organisms which is a good excuse to use one's imagination. How might soil appear to its inhabitants? This leads to consideration of what happens to the organisms that live in soil when it is disturbed and how we might understand soil processes sufficiently well to manage them effectively.
4. How would you stimulate teenagers and young graduates to study soil science?
A good place to start is to investigate the diversity of soil fauna with a microscope this can lead to microscopic comparisons of different soil types, soil structure, mineral and organic composition of soil. Such an investigation raises questions about how soils form. Dissecting microscopes are useful because they immediately trigger questions and amazement. We have a great opportunity to demonstrate to young people the importance of soil to ecosystem function including food production systems. They probably don't think much about how plants grow in soil, how they get their nutrients or understand why soils are very different depending on their origin and what is growing in them.
5. How do you see the future of soil science?
Yes, I see a future for soil science but it is necessary to make a considerable effort in demonstrating the importance of soil within the scientific and broader community. Fortunately, gardeners usually have a very positive attitude to soil, so these people should be nurtured. On the other hand, many young people grow up today without even visiting a vegetable garden or a farm. We need to keep information about soil in the media indeed as I went to work last week there was an item on a national news program about soil microbiology I thought we had come of age!! Let it continue.