Students Dig up Science at CSU Summer Soil Institute

Underneath our planet’s surface is a world of minerals, microorganisms, and organic matter collectively known as soil, and humbly driving life on Earth.  Twenty-four students from around the world got to dig deep on soil science at Colorado State University’s 5th annual Summer Soil Institute (SSI) June 15-28, 2014 in Fort Collins, Colo.

Hosted by the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory in CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources, the unique course provides an integrated perspective of the interactions among living organisms in soils, the chemistry of organic and mineral matter, and the physical structure of soil. Participants got to work with an interdisciplinary team of world-renowned CSU soil experts like Diana Wall, M. Francesca Cotrufo, and John Moore to gain a strong understanding of soil ecology and current soil issues, such as carbon sequestration.

“Soils are Earth’s fragile skin and enable food production, provide clean water, and are fundamental to human well-being,” said Matthew Wallenstein, SSI instructor and professor at CSU. “The Summer Soil Institute is working to advance education opportunities that can help scientists and educators better understand this incredible, underground ecosystem and how to sustainably manage it for human and environmental well-being.”

SSI is designed for a range of participants including K-12 teachers, environmental professionals, graduate students, post-doctoral students and faculty. The program was initiated through a USDA grant and has trained 120 students worldwide so far.
Participants in the two-week course gain hands-on experience with a range of soil analytical techniques including soil chemistry, pedology, microbiology and ecology. Morning lectures and discussions are brought to life daily with field site visits to Colorado grassland and forested ecosystems where participants study and collect diverse soils. The class brings back samples to CSU laboratories where they get to practice a variety of cutting-edge analyses. 

The course also includes lectures and workshops from CSU faculty, and this year included three visiting experts sharing their knowledge and passion for soil science.

“The Summer Soil Institute was a great experience, and most importantly, I walked away understanding the status of the field of soil science,” said Sheila Saia, a 2014 SSI participant and graduate student at Cornell University. “It was tremendously beneficial to learn from and talk to soil experts like those at CSU and other leading universities and gain hands-on experience in soil analysis techniques, which could be used to answer pressing scientific questions.”

Past participants in SSI say the course is a great career investment, as it addresses emerging issues that are propelling future environmental research and industry trends.

“I think SSI is a fantastic opportunity for someone early in their graduate career to gain a broad, multi-disciplinary perspective on soil science. The instructors are all top-notch and it’s great to see the range of questions people are interested in and what tools they use to answer those questions,” said Kabir Peay, Assistant Professor at Stanford University and past SSI participant.

Dates and application deadline for 2015 are still being determined. For more information, visit

Posted on July 14, 2014

CSU Professor Robin Reid receives Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award

Robin Reid of Colorado State University has received the 2014 Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award for her career of significant contributions to advancing international education at public and land-grant institutions.  Reid was one of three recipients of the Malone Award, which is sponsored by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU).

Reid and fellow recipients Amit Chakma of Western University and Krishnaswami Srihari of Binghamton University received their awards during a ceremony at APLU’s 2014 Commission on International Initiatives (CII) summer meeting July 14, in Berkeley, Calif.  

“Robin Reid personifies the interdisciplinary approach that Colorado State University fosters in our faculty,” said Rick Miranda, provost and executive vice president of Colorado State. “She has made enormous contributions to international education and development, and she is a passionate advocate who displays her infectious enthusiasm for her work at every level.”

Reid is director of the Center for Collaborative Conservation, a professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, and a senior scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory – all based in Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources.

For the last 27 years, she has led education, research and outreach projects in the drylands of Africa, Asia and North America. Her current work focuses on how to transform international higher education to be more inclusive of under-represented groups and more useful for local problem solving. She was also instrumental in forging the first Key Strategic Partnership between CSU and an African university, the University of Nairobi, in 2012.


CSU and CU to lead U.S. contribution to Future Earth global environmental initiative

The United States has been selected as one of five international hubs for Future Earth, an ambitious 10-year research initiative to address global environmental change solutions and actions. The U.S. hub will be headquartered in Colorado and managed jointly by Colorado State University and the University of Colorado Boulder. The selection was announced today by the International Council for Science, or ICSU, based in Paris and the interim secretariat for Future Earth.

Future Earth will be part of a new Center for Global Environment managed jointly by CU-Boulder and CSU. The U.S. hub will reside within the new Sustainability, Energy and Environment Complex (SEEC) at CU-Boulder and at the School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES) at CSU.

Professor Dennis Ojima is the lead scientist for the CSU portion of Future Earth and will be the acting global hub director of Future Earth’s U.S. hub in Colorado, and the primary facility for the hub will be located at CU-Boulder. Ojima is a professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability and Senior Research Scientist in the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory in the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University and a Senior Scholar at the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment.

Other Future Earth global hubs will be located in Canada, France, Japan and Sweden. In addition to these global hubs, a number of regional hubs are established or in development in Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and in Africa.