Hi, I'm Judy Turk, a pedologist and assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources. As a pedologist, I study the morphology, genesis, classification, and mapping of soils. I also coach the UNL Soil Judging Team and teach Soil Evaluation and Great Plains Field Pedology.
My current research includes a collaborative project with Purdue University and others in the north central U.S. to prepare data for the iSee Soil Mapper so it can be used in Nebraska and neighboring states. This web-based educational tool is designed to help users visualize soil landscapes and soil properties by incorporating soil data over state and topographic maps.
I also conduct research on a soil feature called the V horizon. The top layer of the soil is usually described as an A horizon, which is dark in color due to organic matter derived from plants and animals that inhabit the soil. However, dry regions of the earth lack the biological input of organic matter to form a typical A horizon. In these environments, the rain, wind, and sun leave a bigger imprint on the soil than the living organisms do. These forces create a V horizon, which is a soil layer with a predominance of bubble-like, vesicular pores. Vesicular pores are formed by pockets of air that are pushed out of smaller pores by water entering the soil and become trapped as the soil dries and hardens. My ongoing research involves using computed tomography imagery to examine differences in vesicular pores formed under varying climatic conditions, as well as response of the vesicular pores to human disturbance and ecological change.
In the near future, I plan to begin new research on soil morphology and genesis here in Nebraska. There's lots to explore! Particularly interesting features include E horizons formed in loess, clay lamellae in sand dunes, and micro-relief produced by shrinking and swelling clays. My research involves going out in the field to describe the soils and analyzing their micromorphology and mineralogy in the lab.
In addition to conducting research in the field, I am also involved in pedagogical research in the classroom. I am interested in developing new tools to help students master the difficult scientific concepts that are essential to understanding soils. In particular, I like to develop tools that promote active learning, such as lecture tutorials.
I chose to study soils because they are such a tremendously complex system. Soils are a three-phase mixture that occurs at the interface of the biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and lithosphere.
I am interested in how the soil profile functions as a canvas that records earth's history and how humans also leave their imprint on this canvas. I am also interested in soil's role in biogeochemical cycles and how the soil interacts with all of earth's other "spheres." I am excited about working at UNL because the geologic and climatic diversity across this state makes in an ideal place to study pedology.
I grew up in Frederick, Maryland, and attended the University of Maryland for my undergraduate degree. I majored in biology, but also took several soils classes and was on the soil judging team. I went to University of California-Riverside for graduate school and earned master's and doctoral degrees in Soil and Water Science. While in graduate school, I did research on debris flows in the San Bernardino Mountains and studied the V horizon at many sites throughout the Sonoran, Mojave, and Great Basin deserts. After graduate school, I was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at West Virginia University, and I worked for five years as Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at Stockton University in New Jersey.