Planetarium Turns Attention Down to Soils in December
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Planetarium Turns Attention Down to Soils in December

Can humans enhance soil services before it's too late?

Everyone who has a garden knows the role soil has in growing crops and sees how farmland around central Illinois is dependent on soil conditions. Scientists such as Dr. Andrew Margenot are investigating the interdependence between human activities and soil quality; he will provide insight into his research for the James Kaler Science Lecture Series at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium next month.

Margenot, assistant professor of soil science in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois, will discuss "Soils and Human Security" on Friday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. Admission is $2 at the door with Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium admitted free of charge.

Although we have it perpetually underfoot, we rarely think of the soils that underpin human society. Soils provide services essential to human well-being and survival. Moreover, because soils are responsive to human activities, our species can compromise or enhance soil services. As we dive deeper into the Anthropocene, the time period where human impact on ecosystems has become significant, how we understand and manage this nonrenewable resource is starting to shift. But will we be able to change our perspective and approach on soils before it is too late?

Margenot completed a PhD in Soils and Biogeochemistry from University of California, Davis, researching nutrient cycling in California and East African agroecosystems, after which he continued at UC Davis as a postdoctoral researcher studying copper contamination of soils. Margenot’s work addresses the literal foundation of all cropping systems: soils. He is advancing how we monitor and manage soils as natural capital. His research team evaluates how human activities can enhance or compromise soil services to human societies, with an emphasis on food security and profitability in the US Midwest and the developing tropics.

After the presentation by Margenot, the Staerkel Planetarium will kick off the winter holidays with the 2019 premiere of the full-dome feature, "Season of Light," at 8 p.m. Tickets for regular programs range from $5 to $6 per person. For a full show schedule, visit the planetarium website or call 217/351-2446.

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