Rosa M. Poch (Spain)
Name: Rosa M. Poch
Position: Professora Titular d’Universitat, since 1998
Accreditation for Catedràtica (Full Professor), since 2011.
Universitat de Lleida
Address: ETSEA – UdL, Av. Rovira Roure 191, Lleida25198
1. When did you decide to study soil science?
During high school I enjoyed biology, physics and maths. But it was only after reading old writings of my grandfather, who was a viticulturalist and political activist in favour of the farmers, that I under-stood his love for the land and I decided to go for Agricultural Engineering, at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. Somehow, I must have it in my genes. Soil Science was a compulsory subject, and I found it fascinating. The year after I passed the subject I was dropping now and then in the Department of Soil Science to join field trips to see more soils. In one of these drop-in’s, my professor told me that in half an hour they were leaving to the west of Spain to look for alkaline soils, with Christian Walter, who was a visiting student at that time; and invited me to join them. At first I said no, but being half way home, I turned back and accepted. In our way we crossed Madrid and visited Carlos Roquero, an old Soil Science professor, who impressed me because of his deep knowledge of spanish soils. Now I think that hunting natric horizons in that field trip made me decide to be a soil scientist.
2. Who has been your most influential teacher?
My professor at that time, Jaume Porta, was the most influential, because he made me realize the importance of soils, and encouraged me to continue my studies in Ghent. Since then, I’m also very much indebted to Georges Stoops, who made me aware of how fascinating are soils through the microscope. Both of them were my PhD co-promoters. Other people that I admire for their rigour, honesty, value of hard work in science and love for soils are Jaume Boixadera, Josep M. Alcañiz, Rob Fitzpatrick, E.A. FitzPatrick and Jan Hopmans. And I’ll never forget Narcís Teixidor, who was never a lecturer, but whose enormous knowledge and enthusiasm for soils I deeply admired.
3. What do you find most exciting about soil science?
The fact that, more than in other sciences, there are always things to discover about how soils are formed, how they behave and how they will answer to future changes. In soil science it is amazing how paradigms and theories can appear and disappear in a short period of time. Also, my opinion is that you can’t be a soil scientist without being an activist, which doesn’t happen in most of the disciplines or professions.
4. How would you stimulate teenagers and young graduates to study soil science?
I have been lecturing to first year students, and I find it a challenge to convey them my excitement and the pleasure I feel when I try to understand soils and their environment. When I am with students, I try to remember how I felt when I was a student and try to use the arguments that would convince me at that time. I was working with secondary school teachers for some years, preparing the University access tests on Earth and Environ-mental Sciences, and I was always trying to write questions where you could realize the usefulness of soil science as an individual science, considering soil as a natural body. We organize also a summer course where we spend most of our time in the field showing the soils of the Pyrenees, to schoolteachers, students of secondary school, naturalists,… and it’s amazing how much they can learn only looking at them. Definitely, the best place is in the field.
5. How do you see the future of soil science?
Much discussion is going on on the subject, and to make it short, I don’t like to dilute soil science in environmental sciences. I have seen how the credit-hours devoted to earth sciences are being progressively reduced in each change of curricula, in spite of our efforts fighting against new waves, as biotechnology, for instance. This is leading to anomalous situations where you have to explain basic soil science to MSc students. There is no magical solution, but I think that it’s partly our fault, and we rather must make people aware, in each of our re-ports, theses, projects, works for companies, and soon, of the usefulness and uniqueness of soil science in environmental studies.