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ISMC News 14 September 2022

Announcements + Featured Paper + Featured Soil Modeller
ISMC-WG: Math of Soils
We have the first meeting on the Math of Soils working group with over 40 folks in attendance. We went into breakout rooms, and harvested feedback on both possible presentations for a seminar series (still open if you have suggestions leave them here: ) and looking for section leads for the manuscript (drop suggestions here: ). You can take a look at the agenda and notes document to follow some of the ideas for possible manuscript sections.
If you would like to receive emails regarding future meetings, please go to the notes document: and add your name to the appropriate contact list in the contact section with how frequently you want emails.
This group is co-chaired by Kathe Todd-Brown <>, Martine van der Ploeg <>, and Yijian Zeng <> .
Report from the 1st International Summer School in Advanced Soil Physics: Modeling Water Fluxes in the Soil-Plant System
Twenty-five international students (out of more than one hundred applicants) attended the 1st ISMC summer school in Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium) from August 21st to August 26th. Under its ambitious title “modeling water flues in the soil plant system”, the program included courses with a mixture of hands-on and more theoretical contents. After a delightful beer tasting icebreaking event on Sunday evening, more than ten lecturers from the soil physics and biological science communities (mainly from UC Louvain and FZ Juelich, but also U Ghent) came over to teach various topics, including soil physics fundamentals to 3-D soil-plant functional and structural models. Different models, such as GRANAR, MECHA, HYDRUS, and RSWMS, were tutored through hands-on sessions, and participants visited laboratories for automated phenotyping and soil physics. In addition, Sarah Garré (ILVO, Belgium) and Quirijn De Jong van Lier (University of São Paulo, Brazil) delivered inspiring talks that perfectly connected models to data.
Participants were pleased with the coherency and significance of themes and lecturers' enthusiasm. In addition, the presenters participated in several illuminating conversations regarding the soil dependence of plant hydraulics, root architecture, and the application of various models.
Different networking opportunities, such as poster sessions, round tables, and pleasant activities, fostered an inspiring environment throughout the week of summer school. This successful outcome encouraged students' and faculty's enthusiasm for future partnerships and connections. In addition, positive participant comments encouraged us to continue this summer program in the coming years. Finally, we thank UC Louvain, ENVITAM, and ISMC for supporting this program.
Mathieu Javaux and Ali Mehmandoostkotlar
Featured Paper
Do you want your paper featured?
Please share your recent paper if you want to be featured in the ISMC newsletter. With your contributions, we will select one paper to be featured in every newsletter. Below is the link to google form
Featured Paper
Reviews and syntheses:
The promise of big diverse soil data, moving current practices towards
future potential
In the age of big data, soil data are more available and richer than ever, but – outside of a few large soil survey resources – they remain largely unusable for informing soil management and understanding Earth system processes beyond the original study. Data science has promised a fully reusable research pipeline where data from past studies are used to contextualize new findings and reanalyzed for new insight. Yet synthesis projects encounter challenges at all steps of the data reuse pipeline, including unavailable data, labor-intensive transcription of datasets, incomplete metadata, and a lack of communication between collaborators. Here, using insights from a diversity of soil, data, and climate scientists, we summarize current practices in soil data synthesis across all stages of database creation: availability, input, harmonization, curation, and publication. We then suggest new soil-focused semantic tools to improve existing data pipelines, such as ontologies, vocabulary lists, and community practices. Our goal is to provide the soil data community with an overview of current practices in soil data and where we need to go to fully leverage big data to solve soil problems in the next century.
Figure caption: Database pipeline with pain points (indicated by “−”) and suggestions for improvement (indicated by “+”) to conform more closely to FAIR data principles. Data sources can be diverse, including published (online repositories and scientific literature) and unpublished sources (direct from the principal investigator, PI). After these sources have been discovered, the data must be accessed and harmonized according to a standard format or data model (internal to the project or a community-driven standard). The aggregated data must then be curated before ultimately being published for reuse.
The full paper can be downloaded from this link: 
Featured Soil Modeller 
Rose Abramoff is a research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL, USA) where she studies the effects of climate change and land management on biogeochemical cycles using experiments, syntheses, and modeling studies. Rose started as a forest ecologist during her PhD at Boston University (USA), where she studied the seasonality of belowground carbon allocation. During her postdoc years at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL, USA) and Laboratory of Climate Science and the Environment (LSCE, France), she focused on soil carbon protection mechanisms and human effects on C sequestration. Rose, originally from San Diego, California, has been living in Knoxville, Tennessee, since early this year, where she is enjoying the outdoors and learning to kayak.
- Please tell us briefly about yourself and your research interest.
Throughout most of my schooling, I had one foot in classical biology and biochemistry and one foot in environmental science and the social issues surrounding the way that humans interact with their environment. A lot of my tendency to work across disciplines comes from my first degree (Bachelor of Arts) from a liberal arts college, which is a very American concept of schooling that is conceptually broad, at times a bit theoretical, with small class sizes and a curriculum which often allows each student to choose their classes and design their own areas of concentration. My current job title is “Mathematical Ecologist” which is think is appropriate, because most common tools I use are quantitative, but are not limited to process models (although I am interested in and actively developed some soil biogeochemical models).
-  How did you first become interested in soil modelling and learn about ISMC?
The first soil model that I worked with was during my graduate studies in the mid-2010s at Boston University. An older graduate student and a postdoc both helped me set up and run an existing model that our lab was using to study carbon and nitrogen limitations in soil microbes. From there I made some simple modifications to test the effect of temperature and litter quality on soil carbon and nitrogen cycling. I can’t remember when I first became aware of the ISMC, but my first formal interaction was participating in the ISMC Conference in 2021.
-Can you share with us your current research focus? And, please tell us briefly how your research could contribute to ISMC Science Panel’s activities
Currently, I am interested in modelling measurable pools and using multiple models with different structures to quantify better the uncertainty in our understanding of soil carbon cycling. The measurable pool model that I developed is called the Millennial model, and some descriptions of current and previous projects can be found at my website. At ORNL, I am currently part of the Terrestrial ecosystem science and Urban ecosystems project teams, where I use models to understand soil carbon fluxes in experimental ecosystems.  I will apply my understanding of multiple model structures within a new ISMC working group co-chaired by Kathe Todd-Brown, Martine van der Ploeg, and Yijian Zeng that will be focused on the math of soil. I’m looking forward to that work.
-Please tell us how can ISMC help you advance in your career?
ISMC has already put me in touch with mathematical soil enthusiasts from all around the world and facilitated some fruitful and ongoing collaborations. The ISMC Conference also introduced me to my favorite remote meeting platform, which I used all during the pandemic to connect with friends and colleagues. I look forward to my interactions with the working group and the research that we’ll do together!
- What resources or skills would you recommend that early career members of ISMC should acquire? And how can ISMC help and support early career members in this regard?
I find that it is most useful to learn by doing. I was very resistant to learning new computational and/or quantitative skills until I found myself with a particular science question to answer and data to apply to it. From there, I was able to find tutorials, papers, github repositories, and other types of online resources that I needed to learn the modeling, coding, version control, high-performance computing, and any other tools that I needed. Do not be afraid to reach out to colleagues, networks like ISMC, and institutional support (you may have a very helpful information technology or computing department at your institution, for example). ISMC can help by providing opportunities for early career researchers to find mentors.
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