GEOS3721 – Australian Soil Use & Management

GEOS3721 – Australian Soil Use & Management explores the wonders beneath our feet. The soil continuum is the outermost layer of the earth, extending from the surface through various horizons to parent material of consolidated substrate or unconsolidated material. It acts as the interface between the atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere and hydrosphere and although we rely on it to provide most of our food and fibre and build our houses upon it we give it little thought? This course aims to introduce and consolidate students knowledge in the discipline area of the science and management of soil in the Australian context.  Classes will be reinforced by a field trip to northern and northwest New South Wales.

Session 1, 2017

Study level: Undergraduate

6 units of credit

Hours per week: 4 - 2 hours lectures, 2 hours practicals, plus a four-day field trip.

Number of weeks: 12.

Current handbook entry Current timetable Course outline (2015)

Who should I contact?

Coordinator: Dr John Triantafilis

What does this course cover?

In the first part of the course we focus on Pedology (from Russian: pedologiya, from the Greek pedon = soil, earth). We will study soil formation and the branch of soil science dealing with soil genesis (i.e. factors and processes), morphology, classification and distribution. Students will gain hands on experience in describing various soil profiles using qualitative morphological properties (e.g. colour, texture, structure, reaction, consistency and drainage). This will help in understanding the various soil forming factors and processes that have led to the development of various soil types in the Australian landscape and be invaluable diagnostic tools which students can use in practice to ascertain limitations and determine appropriate management strategies.

In the second part we will study soil physics, chemistry and mineralogy. Here our focus will be on the complex mixture of rock fragments and minerals, soil structure and the movement of water and air through soil pores. Theoretical lectures and practical classes in the area of soil physics will focus on soil as a three phase system, a reservoir of water, infiltration and saturated hydraulic conductivity.  Complimentary lectures and classes in the area of soil chemistry will be in the area of cation exchange capacity, nutrient cycling, acidification and soil salinisation. In all areas practical aspects of managing soil degradation will be explored in the Australian context.

In the last part of the course students will be introduced to new methods of remotely sensed data and GIS application for improved soil use and management.  Specifically students will study applications in electromagnetic induction, resistivity instrumentation and gamma ray spectrometry.  Finally, numerical classification and modeling of these data sets are discussed and used to develop soil management classes and maps of soil attribute features and land suitability assessment, respectively.

Where does this course fit into my degree?

This is a Stage 3 course, but is open to all and sundry and those who want to learn about the outer mineral layer of the Earth's living skin!

Is there assumed prior knowledge or a co-requisite?

There are no pre-requisites, however it is helpful to have completed GEOS1211 and/or GEOS1701.

Are there mandatory activities for this course?

GEOS3721 has a mandatory Field Trip component which usually runs during O-week or Mid-Session Break. In 2017 it will run during O-week. The field trip incurs a cost of approximately $180 (not including food).

Is there anything else I should know?

Come with an open mind and be prepared to be immersed into a Fabulous Festival of Soil and a course often described as "one of the best I have ever done" and "sheer edu-tainment." 

I took this course a while ago, and need proof of what was covered.

2012 Course Outline

2014 Course Outline


NB: All information provided on this page is superseded by information provided by the course coordinator or lecturer(s).