Gene Kelly, a professor of pedology at Colorado State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences and the deputy director/associate dean of Extension for the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station, has been appointed to the U.S. National Committee for Soil Science by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Kelly’s research is centered on the origin and evolution of soils. From his birds-eye view of the living earth, Kelly unravels the intricacies of how soils form and how agriculture, urbanization and climate change impact our global soil resources.
“The net result of human activities on soil resources this century will be global in scale and will have direct impacts on human security for centuries to come,” said Kelly. “Soil science has become all encompassing. There isn’t one sector of agricultural or environmental sciences that doesn’t touch soils in one way or another. I am honored to serve on this committee, and see it as an opportunity to advance soil science in the U.S. and around the world.”
Working to promote soil science and education
This committee, operating within the National Academy, will promote the importance of soil science research and education in addressing a multitude of global change issues.
“This committee really provides me with an opportunity to not only contribute to the discipline, but to promote the importance of soil science research, education and extension being conducted at land grant universities like CSU,” said Kelly. “I am fortunate to be at CSU where our soil science community spans multiple colleges and is deeply committed to interdisciplinary agricultural, ecological and environmental research and education.”
As the deputy director/associate dean of Extension for the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station, Kelly also emphasizes the importance of integrating research with Extension and the increasing importance of the Extension service and the critical link it plays in CSU’s land-grant mission.
According to Kelly, one of the current issues in soil science centers on the impact of soil health and the importance that farmers adopt practices that are recommended by scientists.
“With the complex land-use and landownership tapestry of Colorado agriculture, it is not surprising that adoption of U.S. government programs related to soil health are extremely low,” said Kelly. “It’s probably far more important for researchers to understand people, rather than soil, in communicating environmental benefits and risks.”
Although new to the committee, Kelly will deliver the keynote speech entitled “A Diverse Soil Science Future” on World Soils Day, December 5, this year. He believes that the scientific community is driven to have a broader impact and relevance across a range of communities, but also must be willing to expand not only the science, but its professional demographic composition.
“In terms of my own research program, it’s easy to get caught up in immediate issues of the day,” said Kelly. “Society is now asking us for information that is both specific to particular problems, places, and times, and also predictive, prescriptive, and scalable. I believe pedology and soil science really need to remain focused on the long view, developing and testing new theories, putting focus on the large scale and long term soil dynamics—that is where my heart remains.”