BIOL 953 Soils: The Final Frontier

banner image

Welcome to the Biol 953 webpage for winter 2006

Soils are fundamental to the biology of all terrestrial ecosystems as well as many stream and river ecosystems. Soils and their influence on ecological patterns in the landscape is a fundamental topic of substantial theoretical and applied importance for a number of research students in Biology, Environmental Science, as well as some components of Geography, Geology and Engineering. Furthermore, soils occupy a central role in understanding the increasingly pressing environmental agenda of climate change, land-use change and eutrophication issues.
This graduate level course is aimed at facilitating student exploration and discussion of current topics in ecological aspects of soils including soil biodiversity, soil biogeochemical cycling, soil-plant relationships, soils in relation to plant community and ecosystem structure, soil development, sustainable use of soils, and modeling soil processes.
We plan to meet once a week for predominantly student-led seminars centered on a topic encapsulated in a specific research paper, as well as potential trips to visit ecosystems on a variety of soil types in E. Ontario, to the Miller Geological museum, and a lab demonstration of relevant analytical equipment. In addition, a variety of guest lecturers may be included.

Professor: Paul Grogan

Seminar Times: Tuesdays 15.00

Location: Room 3112, Biosciences building



20% Participation in discussion
50% Research Paper (in the form of a grant proposal)
30% Seminars


Instructor approval to determine level of interest and enthusiasm for learning about soils.
Upper-level undergraduate courses in ecology, microbiology, physical geography, and geology would be helpful.


Week Day and time Convenor Topic Reading
9th January Tuesday
17th Jan. Tuesday 15.00
Paul Grogan
Introduction: Setting the framework  
24th Jan. Tuesday 15.00 Whitney Szabo Soil restoration See WEBct
31st Jan. Tuesday 15.00 Sandra Wilson Controls on soil microbial community structure Schimel et al, 1998; Nemergut et al, 2005. See WEBct
7th Feb. Tuesday 15.00 Robyn Foote Are soil microbes carbon or nitrogen limited? Hodge et al, 2000; Schimel and Weintraub, 2003. See WEBct
14th Feb. Tuesday 15.00   Equipment demonstration  
21st Feb. Tuesday 15.00   No seminar. Reading week  
28th Feb. Tuesday 15.00 Eden Siwik What are the properties of soil that make it a useful tool in forensic criminal investigations? Ruffell et al, 2005. See WEBct
7th March Tuesday 15.00 Kristie Mahoney

Soil Respiration: Effects of forest harvesting practices

Laporte et al, 2003; Pypker et al, 2003. See WEBct
14th March Tuesday 15.00 Lauren MacLean What are the most important factors that we need to consider in determining if climate warming will enhance CO2 release from soils? Davidson and Janssens, 2006. See WEBct
21st March* Tuesday 15.00 Kate Buckeridge What is the functional significance of the soil microbial community on ecosystem processes such as denitrification? Cavigelli and Robertson, 2000; Sharma et al, 2006.  See WEBct
28th March Tuesday 15.00  Nathan Mannion What are the constraints on bioremediation of contaminants in soil? Gunn Rike et al, 2003; Line et al, 1996; Zytner et al, 2001. See WEBct
4th April Tuesday 15.00 Geoff Hall The use of underwater imaging systems to gauge the extent of bioturbation and human disturbance in sediments Diaz et al, 2003; Badina et al, 2004. See WEBct
11th April Tuesday 15.00
Paul Grogan
Proposal evaluation and Summary discussion See WEBct for copies of all proposals, and assessment sheet

* Friday March 24th will be the final day for submission of your completed grant proposals. For easy circulation to the rest of the group, please submit as PDFs or as Word documents (that I will convert to PDF). If you wish to hand in an outline draft of your proposal (with bullet points or whatever) for feedback on the structure and the hypotheses, you would need to do so at least a week beforehand (i.e. on or before Friday March 17th).

Created 19th January 2006 by P. Grogan
Last Updated: 30th March 2006