Introducing the new Postdoctoral Scholar for the State of the Soils Assessment

Author: Deirdre Griffin LaHue, Assistant Professor of Soil Health and Sustainable Soil Management at Washington State University.

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Luis joins the Washington Soil Health Initiative to work on the State of the Soils Assessment and brings expertise in statistics, digital soil mapping, and soil development.

We are pleased that Dr. Luis Reyes Rojas has joined the WaSHI team as of March 1 to work on the State of the Soils Assessment project. Luis is a soil pedologist with significant expertise in pedometrics (the use of statistical and mathematical approaches to understand why soils developed how and where they did). Luis’s work with us will use the State of the Soils Assessment data to create soil health capacity models and maps for Washington’s diverse soils and to understand the role of management in soil properties.

 

I asked Luis to tell us more about his interests and experience coming into this new role.

How did you initially become interested in soils and data science?

During my undergraduate and master’s studies, through my involvement with the soils group at the University of Chile, participating in field trips that involved describing soils in various climates such as semiarid, Mediterranean, rainy, oceanic, and volcanic soils transects, proved to be very interesting and inspiring. It changes the way of how I see nature. My interest in data science came from the analysis of data collected from a range of sources, including meteorological stations, soil probes, lab analyses, and some plant measurements. It was during this process that I realized my fascination with the relationships between variables and spatial changes.

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Can you share about what experience you bring to this position?

I bring experience in the quantitative study of soils, employing mathematics and statistics to identify patterns that help our understanding of soil genesis and changes in space and time. My approach involves applying concepts developed by the digital soil mapping approach. Some examples of my work include the quantification of soil organic carbon, electrical conductivity, pH, and the spatial prediction of land use/land cover and crop evaporation. I have also integrated these concepts into my teaching positions, incorporating them into pedology and soil fertility courses. These relatively new approaches aim to prepare students for the integration of data science in agriculture and environmental sciences.

Where were you working most recently prior to this role?

I was working at the Center of Mathematical Modeling and the Faculty of Agricultural Science at the University of Chile. In these roles, I contributed to projects involving remote sensing, machine learning applications for rock glaciers, land use/land cover analysis, crop evapotranspiration studies, and soil and environmental policy initiatives in Chile.

What are you excited about in working with the WA Soil Health Initiative team on the State of the Soils?

Exploring the possibilities of identifying patterns in Soil Health parameters and their spatial distribution. Additionally, observing similarities and differences, and analyzing the effects of management to help in strategies for conservation or improvement in soil health based on locations or management history.  With the data captured by the WA Soil Health Initiative team, there is significant potential in integrating other soil data and spatial environmental information available to monitor some specific soil health properties in detail.

What are you most looking forward to doing now that you live in Washington?

I would like to explore outdoor activities such as hiking and biking, seeking to appreciate the natural surroundings. Also, I hope to explore most of the diverse ecoregions and ecozones within the state, as well as visit new cities and places.

Welcome to the WaSHI Team Luis!

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Deirdre Griffin LaHue

Deirdre is an Assistant Professor of Soil Health and Sustainable Soil Management at Washington State University. Her research and extension program focuses on the impacts of agricultural practices on soil health, microbial communities, and the functions they provide.

This article was published by the Washington Soil Health Initiative. For more information, visit https://wasoilhealth.org. To have these posts delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to the WaSHI newsletter. To find a soil science technical service provider, visit the Washington State University Extension website or the Washington State Conservation District website.