Promoting a new generation of soil-interested researchers

An important aspect of EJP SOIL is to contribute to the education of the next generation of soil scientists. The programme actively promotes a range of initiatives aimed at assisting and promoting young researchers.

Loraine ten Damme, Postdoc at Aarhus University.

EJP SOIL has been involved in addressing an important task through activities such as PhD courses and postdoctoral positions, but also by putting soil on the agenda for a wider audience, raising awareness about the significance of soil health in a global context.

"We have a strong focus on capacity building and have been working specifically on educating future researchers in EJP SOIL because it's not only about focusing on soil in the context of climate – there is also a need for hands to tackle the task," says Professor Lars Juhl Munkholm, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University.

Fascinating soils

One of the new generations soil scientists is Loraine ten Damme, 32, from the Netherlands. She has a Ph.D. in soil compaction from Aarhus University. After completing her Ph.D., Loraine went to Sweden for a postdoc position at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and later returned to Aarhus for another postdoc, focusing on soil structure. She is now involved in the EJP SOIL funded projects TRACE-Soils and SoilX.

“The variety and heterogeneity of soils is fascinating and the reason I wanted to be in soil science to begin with. There are not that many people in soil science, and I think it is because people often forget about what is beneath the surface, and maybe don’t realize how important it is understand what is going on in the soil,” says Loraine ten Damme. 

Loraine feels that programmes like EJP SOIL are essential because they provide excellent networking opportunities allowing researchers to meet and connect - especially for younger scientists. Making it more comfortable to attend other conferences in the future for instance.

“Also, the programme helps reduce competition between institutions and individuals, which is nice, since collaboration is vital for understanding soil dynamics on a larger scale – and not only on a small local scale where it is hard to generalize findings from,” says Loraine ten Damme. 

The social aspect of soil science

Currently, Loraine ten Damme is particularly happy with projects that include studying farmer adaptation. Although researchers can identify key drivers of for instance soil compaction, implementing good practices in real-life farming decisions is challenging because it is the farmers who ultimately make the choices. Incorporating the social aspect is crucial for bringing about meaningful change. The interaction between soil science, farmers, and the economy makes the field more challenging but also more intriguing.

“In research we can figure out everything, but if we skip the social aspect, then we cannot change anything. It makes it more difficult, but also more interesting,” says Loraine ten Damme.