Soil is central to life on earth.  We rely on healthy soils for our very survival as soils are required for the growth of our food crops and for the production of fibre. The importance of soils to ecological functioning of the planet is becoming ever more apparent.  Many human activities (such as industrial activity, agriculture and forestry) and natural occurrences (such as wind and rainstorms) have the potential to damage soils and vast areas of soils in many parts of the world have been degraded. This degradation includes soil erosion; desertification; chemical and microbiological pollution of soil and water; soil acidification; soil compaction; and soil organic matter depletion. It is essential that a large number of people obtain an understanding of soils and their functions in order to maintain the healthy functioning of our soils.

The objective of this course is to provide students with an understanding of soils and their properties and functions; and how proper management of soils is essential to their healthy functioning.   Course topics will include: 1) the functions of soils in the environment; 2) the properties of soils, including physical, chemical and biological properties; 3) how soils can be degraded by natural occurrences and human activities (soil erosion, desertification, chemical and microbiological pollution of soil and water; soil acidification; soil compaction; and soil organic matter depletion); and 4) how soils can be managed to maintain or regain healthy functioning.

Prerequisite:  Completion of 45 units including GEOG 111. Students who have taken GEOG 317 may not take this course for further credit. Breadth-Science. This course may be taken to fulfil the requirement of taking one of GEOG 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316 or 317 as part of the BA Major in Geography or the BA Major in Geography with an Environmental Specialty. 

Course organization: One two-hour lecture and one two-hour laboratory session each week.  There will be no labs held in the first week of classes.

Recommended (not required) Textbook: Brady, N.C. and R.R. Weil. 2008.  The Nature and Properties of Soils. Fourteenth edition, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.  Note: previous editions of this text are also acceptable. Note: As an alternative to purchasing the print textbook, students can subscribe to the same content online and save up to 50% off the suggested list price of the print text. With a CourseSmart etextbook, students can search the text, make notes online, print out reading assignments that incorporate lecture notes, and bookmark important passages for later review. For more information, or to subscribe to the or ask Dr. Schmidt CourseSmart eTextbook, visit or ask Dr. Schmidt.

Students will be evaluated based on laboratory exercise and a quiz (40% total); a midterm (25% consisting of short essay questions); and a final exam (35% consisting of short essay questions).

The final examination will be scheduled in the formally-scheduled university examination period.