Soil, Water and Sustainability Group

The Soil, Water and Sustainability Research Group is a collective of collaborating academics, students and professionals whose research addresses the basic scientific information required for food production, forest products and maintaining the integrity of ecological systems for sustaining the resource base. The focus is on the physical and biological environment and the integrated relationship between land and water systems. An emphasis is placed on improving professional and technical communications to stakeholders in these areas.

The Soil, Water and Air Laboratory (SWAL) group has been updated and restructured to form the Soil, Water and Sustainability Group.

Research Topics:

  • Soil Physics & Biometeorology
  • Soil Biology
    • Soil microbial diversity and function in forest ecosystems
    • Plant-mycorrhiza-soil interactions and forest resilience to climate change
  • Innovations in Soil Teaching
    • Application of information technology in soil science education
  • Soil Quality & Sustainability
    • Bioavailability assessment of trace metal contaminants in urban soils
    • Land use impacts on soil quality of rangelands and forests
    • Organic matter and nitrogen dynamics in reclaimed soils
  • Soil-Water Systems
    • Effects of weathering on the surface properties of minerals
    • Phosphorus transformations in soils

Research Groups:



  • MSc and PhD in Soil Science (Research-based): A collaboration between the Faculty of Land and Food Systems and Faculty of Forestry, the inter-faculty Soil Science Graduate Program offers opportunities for advanced study and research leading to MSc and PhD degrees. Students are registered in the Faculty of Graduate Studies through either the Faculty of Land and Food Systems or Faculty of Forestry, depending upon their research interests. Areas of study include biometeorology, forest nutrition and nutrient cycling, mycorrhizal ecology, soil biology, soil quality and fertility, soil-plant interactions, ecosystem services, land and water systems.
  • Professional Masters in Land and Water Systems (MLWS) ext_link : The goal of the innovative Master of Land and Water Systems program is to offer a professional degree which will serve both practicing resource managers and recent graduates from cognate undergraduate academic programs, the necessary credentials to address the emerging concerns of land and water resources conservation and management.

The Soil and Water Sustainability Group has access to diversity of facilities and equipment across the University of British Columbia campus that enables a wide range of soil and water analysis. The group maintains a number of laboratories in the MacMillan building specifically equipped to analyze the physical and chemical properties of soil and water and greenhouse gas fluxes. There are a number of micrometeorological and greenhouse gas flux resources available in the geography department. In the Forest Sciences Centre there are a number of laboratories specializing in the analysis of soil biological components involving molecular, stable isotopes, and microscopy techniques.

Belowground Ecosystems Group The Belowground Ecosystem Group has several laboratories in the Forest Sciences Centre that are used for distinct types of work including: an isotope ratio mass spectrometer for carbon and nitrogen elemental and isotopic analyses; DGGE, thermal cycler, electrophoresis equipment for the extraction and analysis of DNA and RNA from soils.
Biometeorology and Soil Physics Group    The Biometeorology and Soil Physics Group’s ongoing experience with running multiple remote sites and significant technical expertise has resulted in a variety of in-house solutions to the problem of continuous environmental measurement including: heated closed path IRGA enclosures, automated chamber systems, and CO2 concentration profile measurements
Ecohydro Lab The Ecohydro lab maintains a general purpose ion chromatograph (IC) is equipped with an autosampler allowing automated analysis of up to 148 samples for routine and specialized analysis of river water, soil water, rainwater and snow water. Analysis of other matrices is also possible.
Micrometerology Land-Atmosphere Interactions  [description]
The Sustainable Agriculture Landscapes Laboratory Instruments in the SAL Laboratory include a Bruker TENSOR 37 FT-IR spectrometer for high throughput analysis of physical and chemical analysis of soils and a Picarro CRDS for the simultaneous analysis of CO2, N2O and CH4.  The lab also maintains workstations for GIS and remote sensing analysis.
T. Andrew Black Professor Biometeorology, climatic variability, carbon, water and energy balances of forests and agricultural crops
cropped-sandraBrown1.jpg Sandra Brown Lecturer, Research Associate Characterization of soil–water properties of Andean soils; Role of soils in the terrestrial hydrological cycle; Assessing water allocation in Latin America.
Chris Chanway Professor (appointed jointly with Department of Forest & Conservation Sciences) Soil, microorganisms, bacteria, fungi, ecology, nitrogen fixation, plant growth promotion
cropped-sue-grayston.jpg Sue Grayston Professor (appointed jointly with Department of Forest & Conservation Sciences) Microbial diversity and function in soils, plant-microbe interactions, rhizodeposition
Maja Krzic Associate Professor (appointed jointly with Department of Forest & Conservation Sciences) Soil quality, application of information technology in soil science education, soil compaction
Les Lavkulich Professor Emeritus; Graduate Advisor Mineralogy, surface reactions, soil genesis, mineral-organic interactions, natural science and policy development
cindy-prescott Cindy Prescott Professor, Department of Forest & Conservation Sciences, Faculty of Forestry Soil ecology, nutrient cycling, soil restoration, forest soils.
Hans Schreier Professor Emeritus Watershed management, land-water Interactions, soil and water pollution
suzanne-simard Suzanne Simard Professor, Department of Forest & Conservation Sciences, Faculty of Forestry Plant community ecology, plant – soil microbial interactions, mycorrhizae, forest regeneration
Sean Smukler Assistant Professor Agricultural landscape ecology, biodiversity, ecosystem services, sustainable development
julie-wilson Julie Wilson Lecturer; Academic Coordinator, MLWS Program Communications for natural resource professionals, urban watershed management, watershed cumulative effects assessment.