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Environmental Professionals Network

School of Environment and Natural Resources


Digging in with Ohio’s Soil Experts

Dec 4, 2019, 7:15am - 9:30am



According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, soil holds three times as much carbon as the atmosphere and is a critical resource to meet the challenges of a changing climate. Ninety-five percent of our food comes from soil and thirty-three percent of our global soils are already degraded (U.N. 2018). Restorative ecosystem management and regenerative agricultural practices can boost soil productivity and increase resilience to floods and drought, while sequestering carbon. 

Join this EPN Breakfast program to connect with, and learn from, Ohio’s notable soil experts and explore the many sides of creating, preserving and enhancing healthy soils in Ohio! On the eve of the internationally-celebrated World Soil Day (observed on December 5) learn about its origins from one of its major global champions (and Japan Prize winner), Rattan Lal, a soil scientist and professor at The Ohio State University, and why soil matters to Ohio’s conservation community from our state conservationist, Terry Cosby.

Instructors from Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources will showcase an interactive, soil erosion simulator, demonstrating its use for environmental education with regional middle school students. Christine Sprunger will show us how soils contribute broadly to ecosystem services, then observe how a team of instructors applies the teaching of assessment and restoration of urban soil to provide essential ecosystem services. They will describe their urban soil laboratory, and how it provides hands-on experiences in the form of soil remediation partnerships between Ohio State students, local NGOs, and the cities of Mansfield and Columbus, Ohio.


Terry Cosby portrait Terry Cosby

Mr. Terry Cosby is the state conservationist, United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Ohio.  He has served in this capacity since 2005, but began his love of agriculture on a cotton farm where he was raised in Northern Mississippi.  He attended Alcorn State University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Education in 1982. He started his career with NRCS in 1979, and has served in multiple positions in many states on this path to his current State Conservationist position.  He is married and is the father of three children.  He is a member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and attends Mt. Herman Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio, where he is a Deacon.  He enjoys hunting, fishing, and being a high school and college soccer referee. 

Rattan Lal portrait  Rattan Lal, Ph.D.

Dr. Rattan Lal is a distinguished university professor of Soil Science and director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, The Ohio State University, and an adjunct professor of University of Iceland. He served as senior research fellow with the University of Sydney (Australia) and as soil physicist at IITA, Ibadan (Nigeria). He has authored/co-authored 868 refereed journal articles and 506 book chapters, has written 20 and edited/co-edited 69 books. He is included in the Thomson Reuters list of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds, and among the most cited scientists. He received the Honoris Causa degree from five universities in Europe and Asia and is fellow of the five professional societies. He was President of the World Association of Soil and Water Conservation, International Soil and Tillage Research Organization, Soil Science Society of America, and the International Union of Soil Sciences. He received B.S. from Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; M.S. from Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi and Ph.D. from the Ohio State University.


Jeff Hattey portrait  Jeff Hattey, Ph.D.

Dr. Jeff Hattey is a professor of Soil Science and State Extension Specialist in Soil Management (SENR). Dr. Hattey was raised on a small family farm near Kansas City, MO. Since that time, he has worked on soil and environmental issues in the Mississippi Delta, Coastal Plains and Southern High Plains. Recognized nationally by USDA and NACTA for teaching excellence, he is working with other SENR faulty to produce outstanding educational efforts to address key soil management issues for Ohio agriculture producers and urban families. Prior to joining Ohio State, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas, served as a post-doctoral fellow at Auburn University and was the Dillon and Lois Hodges Professor of International Agriculture at Oklahoma State University. 


Scott Demyan portrait M.Scott Demyan, Ph.D.

Dr. Scott Demyan is an assistant professor of Soil and Environmental Mineralogy (SENR). Dr. Demyan joined the SENR faculty in January 2017 with a focus on carbon permanence. He conducts research in the areas of soil organic matter and mineral stabilization mechanisms, inorganic carbon dynamics, and ex situ mineral carbonation as a sequestration method. He received his PhD. in Agricultural Sciences from the University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany in 2013. An Ohio State alumnus, Dr. Demyan received his MSc. in Soil Science and BSc. from SENR. 


Christine Sprunger portrait  Christine Sprunger, Ph.D.

Dr. Christine Sprunger is an assistant professor of Soil Science and Rhizosphere Processes (SENR). Dr. Sprunger is interested in determining how different sources of nitrogen fertilizer, perenniality, and crop diversity influence root production, belowground carbon inputs, soil carbon permanence, and nitrogen use efficiency. Her work with several interdisciplinary teams identified farmer perceptions of soil health and global climate change. She currently works with the Initiative for Food and Agricultural Transformation (InFACT) with a focus on the soil-plant-water-animal-human nexus to enhance climate resilience of agroecosystems through adaptation and mitigation strategies that improve resource use efficiency, sustain productivity, restore soil ecosystem services, and improve carbon sink capacity.  Dr. Sprunger completed a Fellowship in Biology at Columbia University. She holds a Ph.D. in Crop and Soil Sciences and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior from Michigan State University, and received both a B.S. in Forest Resources and a B.A. in Program on the Environment from the University of Washington with a minor in Human Rights. 


Nick Basta portrait Nick Basta, Ph.D.

Dr. Nick Basta is a professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry (SENR) and director of the Environmental Graduate Student Program. His research program uses novel methodology to study the beneficial use of agricultural, industrial, and municipal by-products through land application and the fate of by-products in agronomic/environmental systems.  He has an internationally recognized research program focused on risk-based environmental chemistry and bioavailability of contaminants and nutrients in soil with emphasis on human (e.g., public health), agronomic (e.g., crop, animal), and ecosystem pathways.   


Brian Slater portrait Brian Slater, Ph.D.

Brian Slater, Ph.D., is associate professor of soil science (pedology) and associate director of SENR. Dr. Slater’s research is directed to understanding the diversity of soil resources and applying quantitative methods to enhance soil classification and mapping of soils in the landscape. His research also has focused on soil hydrology and soil structure and on sustainable management practices to support ecosystem services. Dr. Slater teaches courses on pedology (Soil Landscapes), and Urban Soils (with Dr. Basta), leads Education Abroad programs in Iceland and Australia, and extension programs related to soil management and soil-based wastewater treatment systems.


Nall Moonilall  Nall Moonilall

Mr. Nall Moonilall, M.Sc., is a Ph.D. candidate in Ohio State’s Environmental Science Graduate Program. Nall’s research is focused on evaluating soil health, agronomic productivity, and erosivity and erodibility on soils that have experienced simulated erosion and amendment application. Currently, Nall is a graduate teaching associate for the Urban Soils and Ecosystem Services: Assessment and Restoration course, and previously, for Environmental Soil Physics, Environmental Fate and Impact of Pollutants in Soil and Water, Wetland Ecology and Restoration Lecture and Lab, and Introduction to Soil Science Lab. He has also served as a graduate research associate for the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center. Nall received his MS in Environmental Science from Ohio State in 2015, and BS in Environmental Studies with focus on Agroecology from Florida International University.  



7:15 a.m.    Doors open at The Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center; coffee served

Networking session, featuring autumn Ohio State senior Capstone Project Posters on display in the registration area. Visit with presenters.

7:40 a.m.     Breakfast buffet served 

8:10 a.m.     Welcome remarks and overview of the Capstone Posters featured during the networking session by Dr. Jeff Sharp (director of Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR))

8:15 a.m.     Why soils matter to Ohio’s conservation community by Terry Cosby (state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture)

8:25 a.m.     Video remarks in Celebration of World Soil Day featuring Dr. Rattan Lal (professor of Soil Science and director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center)

8:35 a.m.    Soil Erosion simulator and environmental education by Dr. Jeff Hattey (professor of Soil Science and State Extension Specialist in Soil Management) and Dr. M. Scott Demyan (assistant professor of Soil and Environmental Mineralogy)

8:50 a.m.    How do soils provide important ecosystem services? by Dr. Christine Sprunger (assistant professor of Soil Science and Rhizosphere Processes)

9:00 a.m.    Experiential classroom learning in ENR 5279 Ecosystem Services of Urban Soils. A partnership with the City of Columbus and local NGOs by Dr. Nick Basta (professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry), Dr. Brian Slater (associate professor and associate director SENR), and Nall Moonilall (Ph.D. candidate in the Environmental Science Graduate Program)        

9:15 a.m.         Audience Q & A session

9:30 a.m.         Director Jeff Sharp’s closing comments and program concludes