Judith (Judy) Turk

Judith (Judy) Turk

  • Contact Information
  • My Story
  • Publications
  • Background
  • Grants
  • Advising
  • Courses Taught

Contact Information

Faculty RankAssociate Professor
Address607 South Hardin Hall
3310 Holdrege Street
Lincoln NE
  • office: 402-472-8024
  • fax: 402-472-4915
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My Story

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 Research

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.

Why I Study Soils

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.

My Background

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.

Judy Turk with class

Selected Publications

Hanson, P., Reinier, C., Joeckel, R., Turk, J. (2022). Stratigraphy and geochronology of the Todd Valley, an abandoned segment of the Platte River Valley, eastern Nebraska. Boulder, CO: Geological Society of America.
Joeckel, R. M., Korus, J. T., Turk, J. K., Arps, C. C., Arps, N. V., Howard, L. M. (2022). Strange stones of Skull Creek: Basalt glacial erratics and omars in eastern Nebraska. Great Plains Research, 32, 1-20. Online
Joeckel, R. M., Korus, J., Turk, J. K., Aarps, C. C., Aarps, N. V. (2022). The strange stones of Skull Creek: basalt glacial erratics and omars in eastern Nebraska. Great Plains Research. Online
Turk, J., Graham, R. C. (2022). Microbial activity and temperature change affect growth of vesicular pores. Geoderma, 423, 115957.
Airori, A. J., Baker, T., Turk, J. (2021). The Impact of Sampling Methodology on Soil Bulk Density Measurement by the Clod Method. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis, 1-10Online
Fyfe, E. R., de Leeuw, J. R., Carvalho, P. F., Goldstone, R. L., Sherman, J., Admiraal, D. M., Alford, L. K., Bonner, A., Brassil, C. E., Brooks, C. A., Carbonetto, T., Chang, S. H., Cruz, L., Czymoniewicz-Klippel, M., Daneil, F., Driessen, M., Habashy, N., Hanson-Bradley, C., Hirt, E. R., Hojas Carbonell, V., Jackson, D. K., Jones, S., Keagy, J. L., Keith, B., Malmquist, S. J., McQuarrie, B., Metzger, K. J., Min, M. K., Patil, S., Patrick, R. S., Pelaprat, E., Petrunich-Rutherford, M. L., Porter, M. R., Prescott, K., Reck, C., Renner, T., Robbins, E., Smith, R., Stuczynski, P., Thompson, J., Tsotakos, N., Turk, J., Unruh, K., Webb, J. D., Whitehead, S. N., Wisniewski, E. C., Zhang, K. A., Motz, B. A. (2021). ManyClasses 1: Assessing the Generalizable Effect of Immediate Feedback Versus Delayed Feedback Across Many College Classes. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science, 4(3), 25152459211027575. Online
Owen, R., Anderson, A., Bhandari, A., Clark, K., Davis, M., Dere, A., Jelinski, N., Moorberg, C., Osterloh, K., Presley, D., Turk, J., Young, R. (2021). Evaluating student attitudes and learning at remote collegiate soil judging events. Natural Sciences Education, 50(2), e20065.Online
Rabenhorst, M.C., Drohan, P.J., Galbraith, J.M., Moorberg, C., Spokas, L., Stolt, M.H., Thompson, J.A., Turk, J., Vasilas, B.L., Vaughan, K.L. 2021. Mn-Coated IRIS to Document Reducing Soil Conditions. Soil Science Society of America Journal. doi:10.1002/saj2.20301 Online
Turk, J., Young, R. (2021). A novel approach for teaching soil texture estimation: Replacing standard protocols with directed self-calibration. Journal of Geosciences Education, 1-16.
Turk, J., Graham, R. C. (2020). Disturbance impacts on porosity and hydraulic properties of vesicular horizons. Soil Science Society of America Journal.
Turk, J., Young, R. (2020). Field conditions and the accuracy of visually determined Munsell soil color. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 84, 163-169Online
Turk, J. K. 2016. The Development and Evaluation of Lecture Tutorials for Introductory Soil Science. Natural Sciences Education 45. doi:10.4195/nse2016.0002Online
Turk, J.K., and R.C. Graham. 2014. Analysis of vesicular porosity in soils using high-resolution X-ray computed tomography. Soil Science Society of America Journal 78: 868-880.Online
Turk, J.K., O.A. Chadwick, and R.C. Graham. 2011. Pedogenic Processes. In P.M. Huang et al. (eds.) Handbook of Soil Science. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.
Turk, J.K., and R.C. Graham. 2009. Soil carbon and nitrogen accumulation in a forested debris flow chronosequence, California. Soil Science Society of America Journal 73:1504-1509.Online
Turk, J.K., B.R. Goforth, R.C. Graham, and K.J. Kendrick. 2008. Soil morphology of a debris flow chronosequence in a coniferous forest, southern California, USA. Geoderma 146:157-165.Online



DegreeMajorInstitutionYear Awarded
Doctorate of PhilosophySoil and Water SciencesUniversity of California-Riverside2012
Master of ScienceSoil and Water SciencesUniversity of California-Riverside2007
Bachelor of ScienceBiologyUniversity of Maryland2004





TitleAwarded byYear Awarded
Faculty Inspiration AwardSchool of Natural Resources | UNL2024
Early Achievement Faculty AwardCASNR | Holling Family Teaching Excellence Award2023
Great Plains FellowsCenter for Great Plains Studies - UNL2018




SNR Program Areas

  • Environmental Science


Currently this page only displays grants that were awarded on 1/1/ 2009 to the present. If a grant was awarded prior to 1/1/ 2009 and is still active, it will not be displayed on this page.

Grant TitleThe Relationship between Color and Organic Carbon in NE Soils
Starting Date01/06/2021


Ending Date09/29/2022
Funding Level$88,557.00
Funding AgencyUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service


Grant TitleSOILS ACROSS LATITUDES: 2018-2019 International Soils Meeting
Starting Date01/06/2019


Ending Date01/09/2019
Funding Level$500.00
Funding AgencyIANR


Grant TitleAnalysis of Clay Illuviation Processes in Depressional Soils in the Todd Valley, Eastern Nebraska
Starting Date09/24/2018


Ending Date09/30/2020
Funding Level$133,333.00
Funding AgencyDepartment of Agriculture - NRCS


Grant TitleNorth Central Region Isee Soils
Starting Date08/28/2017


Ending Date08/14/2018
Funding Level$8,921.00
Funding AgencyPurdue University



Graduate Programs

Master of Applied Science

Master of Science in Natural Resource Sciences
including specializations in

    Doctorate of Philosophy in Natural Resource Sciences
    including specializations in

      Courses Taught

      Course NumberCourse TitleFall Even YearsFall Odd YearsSpring Even YearsSpring Odd YearsSummer SessionCross Listing
      NRES 279Soil EvaluationXXAGRO/SOIL 279
      NRES 379Advanced Soil EvaluationXXXXPLAS 379, SOIL 379
      NRES 477/877Great Plains Field PedologyXXAGRO/SOIL 477; GEOG 467/867
      SOIL 101Soil and SocietyXX