ESC-30058 - The Science of Soil
Coordinator: Helen C Glanville Tel: +44 1782 7 33987
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 6
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office: 01782 733615

Programme/Approved Electives for 2021/22


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2021/22

We know more about the surface of the moon than we do about what happens in the soil. Geological, Geomorphological, Geographical and hydrological processes leave visible evidence on the earth¿s surface, which are easier to explore than soil processes that are largely invisible and need an element of ingenuity to study. Soils are a complex environment due to numerous processes occurring across a range of scales, from nano- (e.g. molecular) through to macro- (e.g. ecosystem) scale. These processes are the result of interactions between plants and soil organisms as they cycle water and nutrients necessary for survival and we can see the evidence of this reflected in above ground ecosystem productivity. Future challenges such as increasing demands for food production and climate change will require good knowledge and understanding to explore how soils and sediments will respond to future pressures. This module will explore the hidden world of soil and provide you with the necessary tools to identify and characterize soils from different habitats.

This module aims to develop the students' analytical and evidence based knowledge in being able to identify and characterize soil from different habitats. Students will gain experience across a range of laboratory and field research methods cross cutting multiple disciplines including Environmental Science, Geography, Geology, Chemistry and Biology to interpret data and describe soils from different habitats and explore how soil ecosystems respond to changes in land use and climate.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Analyse, describe and interpret physical, chemical and biological properties of soil from different habitats using field and laboratory based research techniques: 1,2
Work as part of team to produce a technical soil characterisation report: 2
Critically evaluate the strengths and limitations of the field and laboratory based approaches for measuring soil quality: 2
Demonstrate skills in research design and implementation, data analysis, computer handling and problem solving: 1,2
Receive, implement and reflect on feedback to inform on current progress and learn how to improve: 1

Study hours

6 hours of lectures.
14 hours of workshops.
30 hours of practical and field based sessions.
100 hours of Independent and group coursework preparation

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Oral Presentation weighted 30%
15 minute presentation with 5 minutes for questions
Students in groups of (approx.) 3/4 will deliver a 20 minute oral presentation (including 5 minutes for questions). The presentation will be based on an existing dataset comprising of soil chemical, physical and biological properties from different habitats. Students in each group will all receive the same mark, this will be outlined at the start of the module. Each student will have to present so they will all get some individual feedback. Feedback from the oral presentation (Assessment 1) will be provided, as a stimulus for reflection in Assessment 2 and to help them in their correct identification of soils from around campus.

2: Report weighted 70%
Technical report
A 2500 word report - components as follows: Students will be responsible for an individual soil classification (equivalent of 1500 words each) as well as the curation of this data to produce a technical report on the soils of Keele's Living Lab with the group in which they conducted Assessment 1. So, in addition to the individual ~1500 soil classification component, students will have to include some collaborative sections (i.e. this could be an intro, conclusion; equivalent of 1000 words). Groups will receive the same marks for this collaborative section. Assessment weighting: 70% for individual report component (~1500 words), 10% for individual feedback implementation and 20% for group collaborative components (~1000 words).