Apply Your Soil Science!

Henry Cakebread

This is one of a series of blogs by OSU students who share the opportunities, experiences and benefits of SQP internships.

Henry Cakebread

This summer (2013) I worked at the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District as a student intern. I knew that I had found a great place the first day that I got the job when I walked into their office on 5th Street after finishing a lab project for a class I was taking called Soil Morphology. I was covered from head to toe in mud and fairly damp as well, but when Teresa took one look at me she said “you look perfect for this.” From there I was sucked into the never ending bevy of projects that everyone there is so personally committed to.

I did a small amount of field sampling but got there a little late for the large majority of that work. After collecting the samples I moved into their lab to test the soils for a few different components and compile a report to return to farmers throughout the area. I worked with a fellow soil science student in the lab testing Active Carbon and Aggregate Stability in these soils. This was great not only because I was using many of the concepts I had learned in class but also I was able to discuss and better understand them with my peers. Teresa also made sure to let me out of the lab once in a while, taking me on field trips throughout the county. I got to see a cover crop trial being put on by the NRCS and speak to a farmer actually experimenting with the cover crops being tested. Besides that, she allowed me to work with her on developing a project to compile an international database for soil quality practices and movements. Like everything in this World, we were limited by funding but even that she presented me with. The forum to consider a project as grand as this was inspiring.

I worked with Teresa again, but in a slightly different capacity. I have paired with a professor on campus and am comparing Benton SWCD’s aggregate stability test with one that we are devising that will hopefully be more accessible and affordable for farmers. Ideally this will make promotion of soil health an easier concept to promote and demonstrate. So, to sum all this up, my time spent at the Benton SWCD was about three main things. Application, application and application. I worked for only one summer but the knowledge and experience that I gained while working there will remain with me for many summers (and everything else in between) to come.