Beyond Dirt: The Ecology of Soil About the course: In this online summer independent course we will dig up knowledge to understand how what lies beneath our feet supports life. This course will focus on different aspects of soil structure and how that structure influences soil function and overall health. Students will learn how to measure basic soil health parameters using soil testing kits they build during the course. This course will be taught online but will focus on place based learning by encouraging the students to investigate their community’s soil. The course will also use case studies to discuss how soils can be managed to sequester carbon and make ecosystems more resilient to a changing climate. Using a combination of short lectures, student presentations, hands on learning activities, class discussions and guest lectures from soil ecology and land management experts students will gain a knowledge base for the functioning of soil as an integrated system. Examples of student assignments for the course include student presentations on their official state and county soil, design and implementation of student projects comparing soil health under different land management strategies (using their soil kits) and the development of a creative piece (i.e. poem, art piece, short essay) that translates the important of soil to the general public. An introduction to soil conservation policies will also be incorporated into the course. No prerequisites required except the desire for students to get their hands dirty! A $25 course fee is required to help cover costs of supplies for soil test kits.
About the instructor: Dr. Jennie DeMarco’s love for soil began as a toddler where she was often found digging in the dirt and on a few occasions eating it. She didn’t start learning about the importance of soil for supporting life until she was an undergraduate where she researched how the structure and function of soil microbial communities was being altered in pinyon-juniper forests by insect outbreaks. She has been studying the impact of climate change, vegetation shifts and land management on soil function and health ever since. Her experience studying soils spans from the deserts to the tundra and everything in between. See more about her research here: www.jenniedemarco.com Please contact Dr. DeMarco at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to register for this course.