Soil Science (MSc, PhD)

Do you see the trees . . . and not just the forest? Whether your game is forest nutrition, crop quality or watershed management — or maybe all three — this is where you can design the learning path you want, and advance the stewardship and sustainability of our land, water and food systems. Offered in collaboration with the Faculty of Forestry, our MSc and PhD programs promise to challenge and excite you, and inspire discovery that opens doors to new understandings.

PhDSoil Science – Doctor of Philosophy – Postgraduate / Graduate Degree Program – UBC Grad School

MScSoil Science – Master of Science – Postgraduate / Graduate Degree Program – UBC Grad School

What you need to know

UBC offers its graduate programs in Soil Science through a collaboration between the Faculty of Land and Food Systems and the Faculty of Forestry. Our inter-faculty MSc and PhD programs set the stage for a breadth and depth of learning, advanced study and research that is unique among universities.

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 the 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, and land and water systems.

Applicants to UBC graduate programs should have academic backgrounds within the minimum academic requirements listed by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.


The MSc program requirements are as follows:

  • minimum of 18 credits of coursework including the Graduate Seminar SOIL 500 (3 credits)
  • 12 credits of thesis research

With a 12-credit thesis, students can include a maximum of 6 credits of senior undergraduate courses.

Additional coursework may be recommended upon consultation with the student’s supervisory committee.


The PhD program requirements are as follows:

  • Appropriate coursework will be selected in consultation with the candidate’s committee.
  • All candidates are required to take a comprehensive examination.
  • The major requirement for the PhD is completion of a research thesis demonstrating the ability to conduct significant and original scientific research.

Faculty Members


  • Julie Wilson (Lecturer), Master of Land and Water Systems, UBC. Watershed assessment and management, land-water interactions, environmental science.
  • Shannon Berch (Adjunct Professor), BC Ministry of Environment, Victoria. Soil mycorrhizae.
  • Chuck Bulmer (Adjunct Professor), BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Range: Vernon. Soil rehabilitation.
  • Brian Wallace (Adjunct Professor), BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Kamloops. Forest soil.
  • Tom Forge (Adjunct Professor), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Summerland. Soil ecology.
  • Rachhpal Jassal (Research Associate). Carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas emissions, soil-nutrient-water interactions.
  • Loretta Li (Professor), Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, UBC. Soil-contaminant interaction.
  • Paul Mitchell-Banks (Adjunct Professor), Central Coast Consulting, Port Moody, BC. Resource planning, aboriginal economic development, environmental assessment.
  • William Mohn (Professor), Department of Microbiology and Immunology, UBC. Soil bioremediation.
  • Dan Moore (Professor), Faculty of Science (Geography), UBC. Hydrology, hydroclimatology, riparian processes and management, physical water quality.
  • David Spittlehouse (Adjunct Professor), BBC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Range: Victoria. Climate change, forest meteorology.
  • Shabtai Bittman (Adjunct Professor), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Agassiz. Soil quality. Shabtai.Bittman@AGR.GC.CA

The program is enriched through collaboration with colleagues in other graduate programs at UBC such as Forestry, Geography, Plant Science, Institute for Resources and Environment, Landscape Architecture, and in agencies such as Environment Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Forest Innovation Investment, and various provincial government agencies.

Recent Thesis Research Topics

  • agriculture and ecosystem services
  • application of information technology in soil science education
  • bioavailability assessment of trace-metal contaminants in urban soils
  • biological nitrogen fixation
  • carbon and energy budgets of pre- to post-harvest forests
  • effects of weathering on the surface properties of minerals
  • energy, water and carbon budgets of agricultural and forest ecosystems
  • land-use impacts on soil quality of rangelands and forests
  • organic matter and nitrogen dynamics in reclaimed soils
  • phosphorus transformations in soils
  • plant-mycorrhiza-soil interactions and forest resilience to climate change
  • rhizosphere microbiology in agricultural and forest soils
  • soil microbial diversity and function in forest sites
  • understanding ecosystems as complex adaptive systems

Got Questions?

Whether you’ve got questions about your program, your experience or your next steps, Graduate Student Services is here to help. Get in touch.

Where Can a Graduate Degree in Soil Science Take You?

Graduates of UBC’s Soil Science MSc and PhD degree programs often obtain positions with government or in the private sector. Some graduates decide to continue in the area of research and academia with various universities and colleges. Examples of where some graduates are employed:

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • BC Ministry of Forests
  • Canadian Forest Service
  • Consulting
  • Environment Canada
  • Associate Professor, University of Guelph
  • Associate Professor, Yale University
  • Associate Professor, University of Northern BC
  • Assistant Professor, University of Bengukulu, Indonesia
  • Assistant Professor, University of Venda for Science and Technology, South Africa

Research Updates