Pavel Krasilnikov (Russia)
Address: Pushkinskaya str., 11, Institute of Biology , Karelia Research Center RAS, Petrozavodsk , Russia
Position: Head of Laboratory (since 1996)
1. When did you decide to study soil science?
When I was a schoolboy I was interested in biology. Thus I selected the Institute of Biology as a place for my summer practice in scientific translation. I dreamed about studying biology and working then in this institute. The Director of the Institute, however, sent me to the laboratory of Soil Science; he considered that there were too many biologists and few soil scientists. The head of the laboratory Dr. Antonina Strelkova gave me papers for translation, and introduced me gently to the world of soils. Two years later I entered the Faculty of Soil Science in Moscow University.
2. Who has been your most influential teacher?
I was lucky to have very good teachers at the university. It was a good pyramid of researchers of different generations, from Gleb Dobrovolsky (who is 96 now) to Sergey Shoba (65) and 'micro-supervisor' of my diploma work Sergey Sedov (48). However, the teacher who influenced me more than any other professor, and still influences me strongly is Viktor Targulian. He is really great.
3. What do you find most exciting about soil science?
I believe that few scientists besides pedologists have a chance to perform multidisciplinary research. Soil science is related to such a variety of natural sciences, that anyone may find his or her niche in soil biology, soil physics, soil mineralogy or any other branch of soil sciences, integrate or alternate the topics in the course of scientific career. I am happy that I managed to work in various areas of pedology, from clay mineralogy to biodiversity studies, classification theory and soil geography. It is like a chance to live several lives in science.
4. How would you stimulate teenagers and young graduates to study soil science?
I see two complimentary options. On one hand, we should stress the basic character of soil science: in fact, we are studying physics, chemistry, biology or geography as basic sciences and then apply them to soil bodies. We can attract clever boys and girls, if we'll manage to explain that soil science may be equally, or even more fascinating than basic sciences. On the other hand, we should work on public image of soil science to prove its utility for practical purposes. For many young people it may be very encouraging.
5. How do you see the future of soil science?
I want to be an optimist, though there are some perils in the future of soil science; the main danger is the loss of identity. We see how soil science is diluting by other disciplines: some traditional areas of soil science separate to form new disciplines, while soil science community adsorbs specialists with limited soil knowledge. I know soil research projects, where no one of the participants has basic education in soil science. However, I hope that soil science would manage to transform into a holistic branch of science that would integrate the research related to complex processes at the Earth's surface.