The NGDC sponsors research on a variety of topics related to the development, use, visualization, and delivery of soil data. Current research areas include Digital Soil Mapping Applications, Digital Soil Mapping-Other Activities, Dynamic (Use-Dependent) Soil Properties, Hydropedology, and Use and Visualization of Soil Data.
Digital Soil Mapping Applications
Broadly speaking, Digital Soil Mapping is the use of computer-assisted techniques to make soil maps. These techniques include digital analogs of traditional cartographic techniques as well as quantitative modeling methods. Our focus in this research area is to explore and apply GIS, remote sensing, and statistical methods to develop quantitative soil predictions.
Digital Soil Mapping Software and Training
The focus of these activities is to develop and deliver the necessary software tools and training to transfer digital soil mapping technologies to NRCS soil scientists.
Dynamic (Use-Dependent) Soil Properties
Dynamic Soil Properties are soil properties that change in response to natural or human-induced causes over the human time scale (Tugel et al., 2005). Dynamic soil properties include soil organic carbon, bulk density, and saturated hydraulic conductivity, among others. Our focus in this research area is to document and understand how soil properties change in response to disturbances and to develop methods for assessing the extent of that change.
Tugel, A.J., J.E. Herrick, J.R. Brown, M.J Mausbach, W. Puckett, and K. Hipple. 2005. Soil change, soil survey, and natural resources decision making: A blueprint for action. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 69:738-747.
Hydropedology is the study of interactive soil and water processes and their properties in the unsaturated zone (Lin, 2004) at multiple scales. The focus of our hydropedology research program is watershed-scale investigations of infiltration, subsurface water movement, and duration and effects of seasonally perched water tables under a variety of land uses. Research in this area is a joint effort between NGDC and the NRCS National Soil Survey Center.
Lin, H. 2004. Hydropedology. Geotimes Earth, Energy, and Environment News. http://www.agiweb.org/geotimes/july04/high_hydropedology.html.
Use and Visualization of Soil Data
Soils are complex natural bodies; likewise, soil information resources such as soil surveys, characterization information, and attribute databases are also complex. Our focus in this research area is to develop applications that will help expert and non-expert users analyze and understand soil processes and distribution in order to make land management decisions.