What exactly does a soil scientist do?

Well, the answer is a multitude of things!

For one, soil scientists measure soil nutrient levels to discover the “goldilocks” level of fertilizer application for crops like cotton, corn, and wheat, which is important for sustaining life on earth and reducing pollution from excess fertilizers!

Here, David Weindorf  of Texas Tech demonstrates the use of a new tool – portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, which gives rapid and accurate results about what elements are found in soil. Pretty sweet stuff.

Soil lamellae!

Soil lamellae are wonderful and striking features that form from a variety of processes.

They are typically seen in sandy, young soils or sediments.

The most frequent mode of formation is the downward movement of small clay particles and/or iron oxides.  Lamellae form as percolating soil-water carries small amounts of clay down a sandy soil profile .

First Big Upload January 2016 905
Soil lamellae in the Oceano soil series (thermic Lamellic Xeropsamments), Hazard Canyon, Montana De Oro state park, CA.  Each lamellae is 1-4cm thick. Note the increasing density of lamellae further down in profile


From Mike Badzmierowski, Virginia Tech:

“Water infiltrating the soil will work its way down following the least resistive pathways. The boundary between soil that has been wetted and the unchanged soil is known as the wetting front. If the clay in suspension is near the edge of the wetting front, the clay will be deposited in a contorted initial lamella.” This deposited lamella may act as a filter for future wetting fronts, depositing clay particles and thickening in a snowball-type effect, but flattened into a layer instead of a ball or nodule.



The presence of lamellae in eolian and fluvial sediment deposits indicates marine sediments that are exposed to subaerial pedogenic conditions can turn a marine sediment into a poorly developed, sandy, young soil –  fairly rapidly. With  continued clay and iron oxide transport into  into lamellae layers over hundreds of years, a weakly-developed illuvial B – horizon is able to form (see picture below).

If you ever see soil lamellae when it is raining, get excited, because you are seeing  soil forming in front of you eyes!