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Natural Sciences Education Abstract - Articles

Introductory Soil Science Exercises Using USDA Web Soil Survey


This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 36 No. 1, p. 19-23
    Received: June 22, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): cpost@clemson.edu
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  1. Christopher J. Post *,
  2. Elena Mikhailova and
  3. Christopher M. McWhorter
  1. Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Clemson Univ., Clemson, SC 29634. C.J. Post, current address: Dep. of Forestry and Natural Resources, Clemson Univ., 261 Lehotsky Hall, Clemson, SC 29634


The USDA, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Web Soil Survey is a valuable teaching tool for soil science education. By incorporating the Web Soil Survey into an undergraduate-level course, students are able to use the most detailed digital soil survey information without the steep learning curve associated with geographic information systems (GIS). We have developed two laboratory exercises utilizing the Web Soil Survey: (1) “Using NRCS Web Soil Survey to evaluate soil physical properties, septic suitability and basement suitability”; and (2) “Using NRCS Web Soil Survey to evaluate soil chemical properties.” The primary objective of these laboratory exercises was to teach students how the Web Soil Survey can be used as a tool to make environmentally based land use decisions. Sixty-seven Clemson University students from various fields (horticulture, forestry, agricultural mechanization, and agricultural education) had hands-on training in using the Web Soil Survey during CSENV 202: Introductory Soil Science course taught in spring 2006. Student responses to the laboratory exercises were strongly positive, both in terms of how the Web Soil Survey helped them understand a range of soil science topics as well as the potential for using the system in their future careers. Incorporation of the Web Soil Survey into introductory soil science courses should have a significant impact on the quality of soil science education and training.

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