The second week of SSI pressed students to synthesize and present data that had been processed in the lab. Lectures continued for the first half of the week, with labs in soil fauna and microbiology. Students then moved to the CSU Mountain Campus at Pingree Park to collaborate on group presentations. The week started with an engaging lecture on soil biodiversity and ecosystem services delivered by Dr. Mary Stromberger. This was followed by a discourse on soil fauna taxonomy led Dr. John Moore. Additional presentations on soil health and microbial ecology and enzymes were given by Drs. Steve Fonte and Matthew Wallenstein respectively.
Lectures were followed by lab work. I participated in the microbiology lab, where we applied enzyme activity fluorescence assays and DNA qPCR to quantify the microbial degradation of SOM, and the biomass of fungi and bacteria in our samples. A instructional tour of Dr. Joe von Fischer’s trace gas lab was also given. Each day lab work was followed by a group discussion held at a local restaurant. Dr. Cotrufo led a conversation on litter decomposition, and Dr. Moore discussed pedagogy and education thereafter. Our final lecture was given by Dr. Keith Paustian on the impact of climate change on soils. Afterwards, we began collaboration on our final group project. Participants moved to Pingree Park to work on their final projects and enjoy CSU’s pristine mountain campus. Presentations were made using data from our labs and delivered to fellow participants and staff. As a whole, this was an active research exercise where participants collected and processed samples, analyzed data, and applied knowledge from lectures to draw conclusions. Participants shared a celebratory dinner after the presentations.
With a 7-year history and approximately 200 alums, CSU’s Summer Soil Institute is a premier opportunity to learn about soil science. It is especially useful to those with limited soil-focused facilities at their institutions, and invaluable to those seeking a comprehensive crash course in soil science.