Soil and Landscape Science

Soil and Landscape Science

We conduct theoretical, methodological and applied research to improve understanding of soil processes and the drivers of soil and landscape variability at different spatial and temporal scales. Our research aims to quantify, assess and monitor soil functions, which help to deliver ecosystem services that enable life on Earth.

The integrated soil sensing, mapping and modelling that we develop can help to:

  • create sustainable landscapes and ecosystems
  • ensure sustainable food, fibre, water and energy production
  • improve nutrient management
  • monitor and verify soil carbon sequestration
  • improve and rehabilitate degraded land
  • rehabilitate contaminated soil
  • mitigate climate change.

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Latest activity

  • New publication – Continental-scale soil carbon composition and vulnerability modulated by regional environmental controls by Viscarra Rossel, Lee, Behrens, Luo et al, 2019, Nature Geoscience – access the paper here.
  • Postgraduate research scholarship – Innovative new methods for soil organic carbon assessment and monitoring – applications now open.
  • Best paper award – The Pedometrics Commission of the International Union of Soil Science has awarded the best paper in pedometrics 2018 to
    T. Behrens, K. Schmidt, R.A. MacMillan, R.A. Viscarra Rossel for the paper titled ‘Multi-scale digital soil mapping with deep learning’, published in the journal Scientific Reports 8: 15244 – access the paper here.

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Current research

  • Integrated methods for the accounting and monitoring of soil and landscape functions
  • Soil-landscape modelling and digital soil mapping
  • Proximal sensing for cost-efficient assessment of soil properties that affect soil health and its condition
  • Improved representation of soil carbon and nutrient cycling in simulation models
  • Impact of climate and land management change on soil carbon capture and storage

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Our people

 

Professor Raphael Viscarra Rossel

Professor Raphael Viscarra Rossel

Raphael’s research helps to gain new knowledge and a better understanding of the effects of climate and anthropogenic change on soil functions. He specialises in the development of new methods for measuring and monitoring soil properties and in the integration of these methods with spatial-temporal modelling at different scales. After 11 years at CSIRO, Raphael moved to Curtin in 2019 to create new research capacity in soil and landscape science.

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Dr Juhwan Lee – Senior Research Fellow

Dr Juhwan Lee – Senior Research Fellow

Juhwan’s research focuses on the effects of climate and land use change on soil carbon and nitrogen cycling. His general approach is to use empirical and biogeochemical modelling to predict the complex interactions between soil, plants, carbon storage and greenhouse gas emissions in agroecological systems across different spatial and temporal scales. Juhwan joined Curtin in 2019 after time at CSIRO.

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Visiting researchers

Dr Lu Xu

Lu is a lecturer at Jiangsu Normal University in Xuzhou province, China. His expertise is in the application of remote sensing and geographic information systems in soil science, and ecology. His research focuses on the retrieval of soil information from spectra and digital images to predict soil degradation processes such as salinisation.

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Dr Andre Carnieletto Dotto

Andre is a post-doctoral researcher at Esalq-USP, Brazil. His expertise is in the application of geographic information systems, soil spectroscopy and statistical programming in soil science. His research pertains to soil genesis and classification, soils, soil-landscape relationship, soil survey, soil spectroscopy and digital soil mapping.

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Research opportunities

We welcome students and visitors from all over the world to our research group.

Applications are now open for the below funded PhD position:

PhD Studentship Innovative new methods for soil organic carbon assessment and monitoring

Soil organic carbon (C) exerts positive effects on soil physical and chemical properties and increases the soil’s capacity to provide ecosystem services (e.g. the provision of food and the regulation of climate). The amount of soil organic C (per unit area of land) depends on the annual inputs of biomass, the type of land management, the soil type and the vulnerability of soil organic C to decomposition. This is why soil organic C is highly variable in space, across landscapes and down the soil profile. Current methods for measuring the variability in soil organic C and for monitoring its change over time are expensive and inefficient. There’s an urgent need to develop cost-efficient methods to assess and monitor changes in soil organic C, for example, for on-farm C accounting. The new methods must be based on a solid understanding of soil C, its composition and the processes that lead to both its accumulation and loss.

The aim of this project is to develop a robust, practical and cost-efficient methodology for measuring the organic C stocks (and C composition) in the soil, for quantifying its variation across landscapes and for monitoring its change over time.

The successful candidate will gain experience in soil organic carbon science, statistical analyses, new soil sensing methods, empirical modelling, multivariate statistics, machine learning and current methodologies for soil C accounting.

The PhD stipend is valued at $27,596 p.a. (indexed yearly) for a maximum of 3 years with a possible extension for an additional 6 months. For a successful international student, PhD tuition fees offsets will apply. The scholarship is a full-time enrolment, no part-time, casual or other are allowed.

Eligibility criteria

  1. Must hold a First or Upper Second-Class Bachelor’s degree (or its international equivalent), or a Master’s degree in a related science field (soil, agriculture, precision agriculture, ecology, environment) with a Merit and a minimum average grade of 60% and substantial research component.
  2. Must be highly motivated to learn and employ new quantitative methods in soil science (sampling designs, proximal and remote sensing, spectroscopy, spatial-temporal analyses, modelling) and must have a strong aptitude for statistical programming, for example using R, python;
  3. Must be able to think and work independently, at their desks, in the laboratory and in the field. They must also be personable and be willing to work in a collaborative team environment.
  4. Proficiency in English is essential. They must have excellent written and communication skills and a strong aptitude for scientific writing and publication.
  5. Must not be engaged in full-time employment, or be subject to an obligation with another party to provide that party with any intellectual property rights during the course of their research studies.
  6. A good understanding of the soil carbon cycle is desirable.

Interested people should email their applications, including the following, to r.viscarra-rossel@curtin.edu.au:

  • Degree and transcripts of their academic record,
  • A personal statement that demonstrates the required skills and experience as per the eligibility criteria 2–6.
  • Curriculum vitae and publications,
  • Two academic references.

For more information contact Prof. Viscarra Rossel on +61 467 769 364, email r.viscarra-rossel@curtin.edu.au and also see here.

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Collaborators

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