Geology 3710 – Spring 2018

Environmental Soil Science

Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences

Valdosta State University


Instructor: Dr. Donald M. Thieme               Meeting Times: 12:00-12:50 MWF Nevins 3041,

12:30-3:20 R Nevins 1051

Office: 2046 Nevins Hall                                Web Page:

Phone: 219-1345                                             E-Mail:

Office Hours: Office Hours: M 2-3, T 1-3



Eash, N. S., and others, 2015, Soil Science Simplified. Blackwell, Ames, Iowa.


Course Purpose and Overview

Soil is the interface between the four major spheres of Planet Earth: lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. Soil science is thus inherently both environmental and inter-disciplinary. Whether or not you plan to pursue a scientific career or a line of work where you will be working with soil first hand, this course will provide you with essential knowledge and useful tools for understanding environmental processes that take place immediately beneath the Earth’s surface. Soil is the medium in which we grow the crops that feed all of the world’s people. We construct our houses, businesses, roadways, and landfills in soil, and soil serves as a filter helping to prevent contamination of ground and surface water. For all these reasons and more, students in geography, geology, and environmental science should have a fundamental understanding of the soil system. During this semester we will explore basic definitions and properties of soil, soil forming processes, soil classification, field and laboratory description and measurement, and some ways that soil information is used in geology and other scientific fields.


Course Content and Attendance

I will take attendance during the first few weeks of class, but that is primarily to get to know you. There will be no points awarded for attendance, but attendance at labs is mandatory and it will not be possible to make up those points after you miss a lab. In lecture, I will cover some material that is not in your book. Of the readings which are assigned, I will be highlighting topics which I feel are the most important. These should also be topics that inspire you when thinking about your term papers. At least one short (5-10 minute) class presentation will also be required of each of you at some point during the semester. My office hours are listed at the beginning of the syllabus. Although I have a busy schedule this semester, I should be able to set up other meeting times if my posted hours do not work for you. Feel free to stop by whenever I am in my office.



There will be three hour-long exams (100 points each) during the semester and a final exam (200 points) given at the course’s completion.  The final exam will include approximately 100 points of material covered after the third lecture exam and 100 points of comprehensive material.  Make up exams will only be given in the case of extreme circumstances.  Illness will only be considered a valid excuse for missing an exam if you can provide a doctor’s note stating that you were too ill to attend the test.


Four 30 point homework assignments will be given during the semester. These will provide practice with simple calculations as well as methods of description and classification of soils. They are designed to prepare you for my exams so it is to your advantage to have finished them before each exam.


Your class presentations will be worth 40 points of your course grade. Thefirst opportunity to present will be Week 3 on topics of Soil Classication. Other popular topics will be on Soil Hydrology, Soil Organisms, Soil Erosion, GIS Applications, and Remote Sensing Techniques. Please discuss possible topics with me as soon as possible so that I can schedule them. Please attend class when your fellow students are presenting as this will be another time where I typically take attendance.


Each of you will be required to attend at least one field trip during the semester. There will be a short written assignment for each trip, and you will earn a maximum of 50 points for your field trip participation and completion of the assignment. I will lead the first class fieldtrip on a Saturday in February or March. We will be probably be examining soils immediately outside a municipal cemetery in Brooks County. If you must miss that fieldtrip, or if you want to earn a maximum of 50 points of extra credit, you can attend one of the fieldtrips for geology classes. These will be posted here after the end of the first week of class.


The laboratory section of GEOL 3710 is required of all students. There will be about 10 lab exercises completed during the semester, and the work will be due no later than one week after the lab has been completed. At 15 points each, the 10 exercises will be worth 150 points total. Late labs will be deducted 10% per day late.


A total of 800 points will be possible during the course of the semester (450 lecture tests, 30 presentation, 120 homework, 50 field trip, 150 labs). Final grades will be based on the following scale:





90 – 100

80 – 90

70 – 80

60 – 70

< 60





< 600






Disability Policy

Students requiring classroom accommodations or modifications because of a documented disability should discuss this with me so we can make reasonable accommodations. If you have not yet done so, you should also contact the Special Services Program located in Room 1115 Nevins Hall and register with them.


Plagiarism and Cheating

Students are allowed to work in groups on labs, but other assignments are individual assignments. Any student who copies, plagiarizes, or otherwise cheats on an individual assignment will be given a zero for that assignment. There will be no exceptions and no opportunity to re-do the assignment.


Tentative Lecture Schedule and Readings: All Readings are in Eash et al., 2015, Soil Science Simplified. Blackwell, Ames, Iowa.




Topics and Important Dates



January 8-12

Definition of Soil, Soil as Interface,

Soil Profile and Horizons, Mineral Constituents

Eash, Ch. 1, 2

p. 1-5, 21-22


January 16-19

January 15th ML King Day, no school

Soil Formation and Pedogenic Processes

Eash, Ch. 2

p. 7-25


January 22-26

Soil Morphology and Classification

HW #1 assigned

Eash, Ch. 11

p. 167-198


Jan 29 – Feb 2

Soil Physical Properties

Exam #1 February 2nd

Eash, Ch. 3

p. 27-36


February 5-9

Hydrologic Cycle, Soil Water

Eash, Ch. 6

p. 77-93


February 12-16

Soil Temperature and Soil Gas

HW #1 due February 16th

Eash, Ch. 3, 7

p. 35-36, 95-108


February 19-23

Weathering and Soil Minerals

HW #2 assigned

Eash, Ch. 5

p. 59-65


Feb 26 – Mar 2

Soil Acidity, Nutrients

Biogeochemical Cycles

Eash, Ch. 4, 5, 8

p. 48-51, 71-74, 109-114


March 5-9

Cation Exchange

Exam #2 March 9th

Eash, Ch. 5

p. 66-69

March 12-16

Spring Break!



March 19-23

Soil Organisms and Ecology

HW #2 due March 23rd

Eash, Ch. 4

p. 46-48, 52-57


March 26-30

Soil Organic Matter

HW #3 assigned

Eash, Ch. 4

p. 41-45


April 2-6

Soil Erosion and Conservation

HW #3 due April 11th

Eash, Ch. 10

p. 149-166


April 9-13

Soil Surveys, Remote Sensing, GIS

Exam #3, April 13th

Eash, Ch. 11

p. 198-205


April 16-20

Urban Soils, Engineering Uses

HW#4 assigned

Eash, Ch. 12

p. 207-221


April 23-30

Soils and Chemical Pollution

HW #4 due April 30th

Eash, Ch. 12

p. 221-229

May 4

FINAL EXAM @ 10:15-12:15 PM

Nevins 3041