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Soil scientist

Assesses the biological and chemical make-up of the soil to advise on its preservation and use.

Job description

Employing specialist scientific knowledge and equipment, the soil scientist assesses the biological and chemical make-up of the soil to advise on its preservation and use.

Soil scientists study soil and advise clients on its management and conservation. They survey and map soils, and produce information on their various properties and possible uses. They use their research to make the best use of soils and their work can be applied in a variety of areas, such as advising farmers on crop nutrition, the use of fertilisers, or land management methods that minimise or prevent soil erosion.

Some soil scientists study soil drainage, and suggest ways to prevent chemical 'runoff' into nearby rivers and lakes. Others test the effects and efficiency of products like fertilisers and pesticides on the soil, soil traffic ability and soil-machine interaction.

Soil scientists may work as soil consultants advising civil engineers on the risk of subsidence and landslides. They may also be involved in environmental issues such as advising on the suitability of a site for waste disposal, or rehabilitation of abandoned mines and quarries.

Soil scientists are employed by public and private organisations and their scientific evaluations can influence industrial development, farming methods and government policy.

Work activities

  • Determining the qualities and properties of soil.
  • Visiting sites and taking soil samples for laboratory testing.
  • Carrying out analysis on test data.
  • Making maps and models using computers and mapping software.
  • Researching the effects of pollution, deforestation and erosion on the make up of soil.
  • Examining green house emissions from soils and the recycling of organic resources.
  • Writing reports assessing the suitability of land for a variety of uses such as agriculture, forestry, civil engineering, environmental protection, natural resource or archaeological exploration, and waste management.

Typical employers

  • Environmental agencies
  • Private consultancies and advisory services
  • Research institutions
  • State agencies