GEO310 - Introductory Soil Science                            

Instructor: Dr. Alan Goldin (
Office hours: MTWF 10
Other hours by appointment
Phone: 592-5015; 592-5208 until 10/1
Room: WH226
Class: MWF 1, Lab T 2-5

CATALOG DESCRIPTION: Nature, properties and distribution of soils and their relationship to the influence of vegetation, climate, landforms, and human activity. Understanding how soils form and how and why they vary horizontally across the landscape and vertically with depth. Emphasis upon North American patterns. Required field trips and labs. Prerequisites: CHM105/6 or CHM124/5; GEO108, 105 or 110.


Week of Lecture Topic Chapter Lab
Reading* Exercise

Aug. 25 Differences among soils, course H1,B1,19 1
structure, introduction to soils "Concepts"

Sept. 1 Rocks, weathering, parent materials H2,B2 2

Sept. 8 Soil formation H3,B2 3

Sept. 15 Physical properties of soils H4,B4 4

Sept. 22 Physical properties of soils H4,B4 5

Sept. 29 Organisms and organic matter H5,B11,12 6
EXAM 1 - September 29

Oct. 6 The mineral fraction of soils H6,B8 7

Oct. 13 Ion exchange & soil chemistry H7,B8,9,10 8

Oct. 20 Ion exchange & soil chemistry H7,B8,9,10 9

Oct. 27 Soil & Water Management H8,9,B5,6,19 10

Nov. 3 Soil erosion H10,B17 11
EXAM 2 - Nov 3

Nov. 10 Soil aeration and temperature H11,B7 12

Nov. 17 Soil classification and survey H12,B3 13
EXAM 3 - Nov. 21

Dec. 1 Soils and Remote Sensing B19 LAB FINAL
Review, LAB FINAL December 2


Required: Soil Science: Principles and Practices by R.L. Hausenbuiller, Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 1985. Denoted by "H".

Reserve: The Nature and Properties of Soils by N.C. Brady and R.R. Weil, Prentice Hall, Thirteenth Edition, 2002. Denoted by "B".


Exams will be on September 29, November 3, and on November 21. The optional cumulative final exam will be given during exam week.


1. Three examinations on lecture/textbook material. All exams will cover only material discussed since the previous exam, except as new material relates to previously tested material. The only exception is the optional CUMULATIVE final exam that will be given during finals week. The final exam will replace the lowest exam grade, not the lab exam or paper grade. Exams will be a combination of short answer and essay. Every effort should be made to take the exams. Make-up exams MUST be taken within one week or a grade of zero will be given.

2. Material covered in the labs will be on lecture exams. A cumulative lab final will be given on December 2. The lab exercises will be performed in groups of two students. Four lab reports will be due. Three will be written individually: 1) a full profile description of one of the soils we describe in the field, including interpretation of your pedon relative to the typical soil in the county (labs #3 or #9), 2) soil textural analysis (lab #4), and 3) soil survey report exercise (lab #11). These three lab reports are worth 3% each. The due dates are October 28, September 30, and November 18, respectively. Examples of lab reports will be on reserve in the library. Labs will be in the field off-campus (3, 9, 10, 12), outside on campus (2, 4b) or in the lab (1, 4a, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11). Lab reports are worth 16% of your grade.
Lab exercises 1, 4a, 5, 6, and 8 will use the group-assigned sample. A lab report worth 7% of your grade will be written combining the results and especially writing an interpretation of the data collected from these labs for your sample. The report should begin with an introduction providing a discussion of the importance of the experiments, a general methods section discussing the importance of some of the various steps, tabulated results, discussion and conclusions, indicating how the purpose was fulfilled. You should discuss the consistency of the results of the different tests (do they make sense, show similar trends, and why, etc.), where you think the sample came from and why it could or couldn't have come from the other locations, management of the soil, and so forth. This will be a GROUP lab report and will be 10 pages MAXIMUM typed.

3. A paper three to five pages in length, typed and due no later than Nov. 12 is required. The paper should involve the importance of soils in environmental science or land use. Examples include bioremediation, water movement, pesticide attenuation, effects of compaction on runoff or on soil or plant productivity. The paper must include a minimum of three refereed journal articles and have the title approved by the instructor. The title is due November 1 and can't be changed after this date. The journal articles MUST be handed in with the paper to receive credit. There will be a sign-up sheet to eliminate topic duplication. The paper MUST also be approved by the Writing Lab. Failure to get written approval (to be included with the paper) will result in a one letter grade loss. The paper MUST be proofread and spellchecked. One point will be deducted for any more than two mistakes in proofreading or spelling. Late papers will lose one grade for each day late.

4. Attendance for class and labs is required. You will have difficulty understanding the material and keeping up with it if you miss class. YOU are responsible for recording your attendance in the attendance book. You are allowed three absences. Additional ones will result in the loss of one point off your final grade.

5. There will be a number of articles to review that will be placed on reserve in the library during the semester. You will be notified of these. This material will be discussed in class and will be on exams.

6. Assignments are due on the due date. Late assignments will lose one letter grade for each week or part of a week late.

7. Grades will be evaluated as A through F based on the following criteria: A = 90-100; B = 80-89; C = 70-79; D= 60-69; F <60. Note: the final exam can replace another exam.

Any student who feels that he or she may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me to arrange an appointment at his/her earliest convenience. At that time, we can discuss the course format, anticipate your needs, and explore possible accommodations. Westminster's ADA policy can be found at the College's website:

Due Date
Examination 1: 20% Sept. 29
Examination 2: 20% Nov. 3
Examination 3: 20% Nov. 21
Lab Final : 10% Dec. 2
Paper : 14% Nov. 12
Lab reports : 16% 10/28 (descrip), 9/30
(textural analysis), 11/18 (soil survey report)


1. (8/26) Field techniques: soil texture by the feel method, soil color, colorimetric pH; distribute group samples - lab
2. (9/2) Demonstration soil description near campus
3. (9/9) Soil description- field
4a. (9/16) Demonstration of texture by the hydrometer method of Day (1965)- lab
Complete textural analysis of your lab sample on your own time.
4b or 5b. Bulk density - on campus
5. (9/23) Liquid and plastic limits - lab
6. (9/30) Soil organic matter - lab
7. (10/7) Cation Exchange Capacity experiment - lab
8. (10/14) Soil pH and soil phosphorus - lab
9. (10/21) Soil description - field
10. (10/28) Soil erosion in Callaway County - field with NRCS
11. (11/4) Soil Survey reports - lab
12. (11/13) Double ring infiltrometer
13. (11/20) GIS and soil mapping with NRCS


1. To learn the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soils and how soils interface with other environmental variables.

2. To understand how soils form and how and why they vary horizontally across a landscape and vertically with depth.

3. To understand how humans influence soil development by manipulation, erosion, and pollution and to understand the need for careful husbandry of the soil as a vital resource to all life on earth.

4. To understand the interaction of soils and plants, how soils influence plant growth and distribution and how plants affect soil development.

5. To appreciate the many uses of soils, including agriculture, waste disposal, engineering, and water purification.

6. To appreciate soil classification and soil survey and how these allow soil scientists to extrapolate soils information in order to understand relationships among and within soils.