Why Environmental Soil Science?
Much more than “the study of dirt,” soil science blends physical, life and environmental sciences in a way that allows us to effectively study the earth’s environmental quality. We obtain about 99% of our food and fiber from the land, which demonstrates why soils are one of our most important natural resources. With the pressing environmental problems that exist worldwide and the ever-increasing world population, the need for bright and well-trained soil scientists has never been greater.
The Major Elements
The Environmental Soil Science major teaches students how to question, analyze, interpret and hypothesize in the manner of a good scientist. Rigor is at the heart of our curriculum, which opens with a freshman year of chemistry, geology, mathematics, botany, and land and water management. From then on, students sample microbiology, hydrology, physics, meteorology, soil chemistry, and other advanced science courses. In the classroom, in the lab, and in the field, students tackle real-world environmental issues and are challenged to find solutions.
Environmental Soil Science majors take interesting and contemporary courses in soil science that address both the fundamental and applied aspects of the field including: soil and water quality, soil contamination with metals and pesticides, remediation of contaminated soils, restoration of wetlands, soil degradation, nutrient management, movement of viruses and bacteria in soils and waters, bioremediation, application of molecular biology and genetic engineering to development of microbes that can degrade hazardous pollutants, land use, global warming, and acid rain. They also receive sound training in mathematics, chemistry, biology, geology, and the environmental sciences.
While science and analytical skills are critical to success in the major, we also emphasize the importance of general education. Courses in public speaking, computers, the arts, humanities, and social sciences are also part of every student’s curriculum. And many students further develop their undergraduate education by adding minors in geology, chemistry, English, business or other areas.
A Place to Learn
Our program is housed in Townsend and Worrilow Halls, the centerpiece of our 350-acre teaching and research complex. The Fischer Greenhouse
is a computer-controlled teaching and research facility that exemplifies the latest technology in greenhouses. Surrounding the College’s buildings are the University of Delaware Botanical Gardens
, home to hundreds of native and non-native species. The College also offers a soil study area, which illustrates the various striations of soil and allows students to perform various tests on the different soil compositions. In addition to these sites, students also routinely use the College's state-of-the-art computing center and the Agriculture Library
. We are also fortunate to be within a short drive of several state parks, wetlands, government agencies, national laboratories and botanical gardens, which are the sites of departmental field trips and student internships.
Enriching the Experience
Our program is well known, not only for our internationally recognized faculty but, for the way we treat students. From orientation to graduation, faculty work closely with students—teaching courses, offering advice, assisting with course selection, and helping students plan their futures. Because getting experience outside the classroom is important, faculty also serve as mentors for independent studies and undergraduate research. Some students work part-time in our greenhouses and gardens, while others assist with research in faculty members’ laboratories. Many students also pursue internships and independent studies through local organizations, such as the Environmental Protection Agency
To explore the scientific and environmental practices of other countries, students may participate in one of many faculty-led study abroad trips. The Department of Plant and Soil Sciences has led trips to Costa Rica, Morocco, and Ecuador. In addition to the courses that students take while abroad, they also learn about and interact with a new culture.
Life After College
Students who graduate with a major in Environmental Soil Science obtain well paying and satisfying positions in industry, state and federal agencies, and consulting firms. Specialists in soil science are needed in areas like water quality, bioremediation and soil decontamination, soil ecology, wetland ecology, and recycling technology. Examples of some recent positions our graduates have obtained include: consultant with environmental engineering firm; research associate with a major chemical company; land use expert with state environmental agency; and employee of Natural Resources Conservation Service. For those who wish to continue their education beyond the B.S. degree, we regularly place our students in the finest graduate programs in the US in areas such as soil chemistry, soil physics, soil biochemistry, environmental chemistry, and geology.
To assist our students, we offer career-preparation programs throughout the year, including workshops on resume writing, the job search, and how to prepare for graduate school. A spring Career Fair, which attracts more than 35 companies, allows students to network with prospective employers.