Lesson 15: Soils

Grassland soil in Missouri; photo by Marli MillerThis is our fourth and final lesson to focus on Earth's resources and in it you'll learn about the structure, properties and erosion of soils (like those of the Missouri grasslands, at right). Part of the importance of soils can be understood in their relation to agriculture. Remember that old adage I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, "If it's not grown, it's mined." During our two previous lessons we've considered mineral and energy resources that are "mined"; this week, however, we'll look at soils which are the basis for all the food and timber that are "grown". The significance of soils in environmental geology goes beyond agriculture, however, because, as you saw in the landslide hazard exercise a few weeks ago the nature of a soil plays a big role in determining how suitable a site will be for construction or other uses.

As you read through the introduction to soils in our text and study the accompanying websites it will be helpful to take careful notes. Writing out key facts in your own words or making neatly labeled drawings will help you better understand the significance of what you've read and spot any gaps in your knowledge. Having complete notes will also make it easier for you to review for this week's quiz and and access what you've learned when you want to refer back to it for future assignments. Be sure that you are prepared to meet the learning objectives outlined below before you move on to the quiz at the bottom of the page. This week's exercise, which comes from Hazard City, looks at how a variety of factors (which in real-life would also include soil characteristics) influence our ability to site waste disposal sites.

Weekly Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of this week's lesson, a student is expected to be able to:

Reading and Browsing Assignment

Exercise 15: Landfill Siting exercise (Due by 9:00 AM on 28-Nov-2011)

Please point your browser to the Hazard City website and work through version 2 of the Landfill Siting exercise. This is one of the more "interactive" Hazard City assignments because you'll be using a simplified GIS (geographic information system) to turn on and off map "layers" so that you can determine which—if any—of several sites might be suitable for a landfill. The project will probably take about an hour to complete, but be sure not to rush through it or you'll risk missing important details about the siting requirements. It may be helpful to take notes on key facts as you read through the introduction (e.g., the population of Hazard City is critical because it dictates which type of municipal landfill is being proposed as described in §330.2 of the regulations). Also, I recommend that you fill out the project's final report before you go to the "Assignments, Tests, and Surveys" tool in Etudes to submit your answers for Exercise 15.

Quiz 15: Soils (Due by 9:00 AM on 28-Nov-2011.)

After you feel you have met the learning outcomes outlined above, please complete Quiz 15 in the Etudes "Assignments, Tests, and Surveys" area. There are ten questions, each worth one point. If you can answer all of them correctly it means that you know your way around the basics of soil resources pretty well and are ready to move on to a more detailed look at recycling and waste management next week. Remember, answers will be available for review after 10:00 AM on the Tuesday after the quiz closes, so please look over the results of your quiz and contact me if you have any questions about either content or scoring.