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ISMC News 18 May 2021

Conference Start + ISMC Publication Award 2020 + Featured Soil Modeller


We look forward to an amazing conference starting today!

Not registered? Registration remains open throughout the conference.


Presentations during Opening Session: Presentation from different award winners
Day 1: 18th May
Tiina Roose: “Multiscale Image Based Modelling of Plant-Soil Interaction”
Morteza Sadeghi: “Bridging From Traditional Soil Physics to Terrestrial Remote Sensing”
Ryan Stewart: “Oscillations in modeling soil processes: an early career perspective”
Andrea Carminati, Mathieu Javaux: “Soil hydraulics shapes transpiration response of plant to drought”
Invited Talks:
Day 3: 20th May
José Padarian: “Deep neural networks: a flexible framework for soil modelling“
Joachim Tremosa: “Simulation of shale weathering by seasonal O2 diffusion in a variably saturated soil”
Day 4: 21st May
Erin Brooks et al.: “Timely Decision Support for Watershed Management with WEPPcloud“
Feng Tao et al.: “PROcess-guided deep learning and DAta-driven modelling (PRODA) uncovers key mechanisms underlying global soil carbon storage”

Sessions by day and time:
DAY 2: 19th May
ISMC2021-3: Modelling at the interface of soil and plant, 11:00–12:30 (CEST)
ISMC2021-1: Integration of Soil Processes in Global Land Surface/Earth System Models, 15:00–16:30 (CEST)

DAY 3: 20th May
ISMC2021-4: Modelling of soil contamination, transport of pollutants and evaluation of soil functions at all scales, 11:00–12:30 (CEST)
ISMC2021-10: Advances in soil modeling through data analytics, machine learning and prediction, 15:00–16:30 (CEST)

DAY 4: 21st May
ISMC2021-9:Modelling biogeochemical fluxes and soil organic carbon dynamics in soil systems, 03:00–04:30
ISMC2021-6: Modeling surface runoff and soil erosion at various scales: data, process, and mathematical representation, 15:00–16:30

More details can be found in:


ISMC Publication Award 2020

“ISMC Publication Award” is to honour the outstanding paper that will likely make a significant impact in soil systems modeling, consistent with the mission of ISMC. For the Year 2020, the ISMC publication award goes to:

Carminati, A. and Javaux, M.: Soil Rather Than Xylem Vulnerability Controls Stomatal Response to Drought, Trends Plant Sci., 25(9), 868–880, doi:10.1016/j.tplants.2020.04.003, 2020.
Congratulations to Prof. Dr. Andrea Carminati (ETH Zürich) and Prof. Dr. Mathieu Javaux (Université catholique de Louvain) for this great achievement!


Featured Soil Modeller

Using reactive transport models to understand and predict soil biogeochemical cycles

Bhavna Arora is a Research Scientist in the Energy Geosciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She received her Ph.D. from the interdisciplinary Water Management and Hydrological Sciences program at Texas A&M University in 2012. Dr. Arora also holds a minor in Mathematics and Computing from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. Given her interdisciplinary research background, her work has focused on developing and benchmarking reactive transport models, evaluating model and parameter uncertainty, and investigating spatial and temporal variability in biogeochemical cycles. Presently, she is the lead of the Biogeochemical Cycling group at Berkeley Laboratory.

- Please tell us briefly about yourself and your research interest.

My research primarily involves reactive transport modelling to provide a comprehensive and predictive understanding of biogeochemical processes in various types of natural and managed ecosystems and at different space-time scales. I specialize in utilizing a combination of high-fidelity numerical models, uncertainty analysis and data mining techniques to test new concepts and hypotheses and in applying these tools to provide a scientific basis for solving diverse issues in the earth and environmental sciences such as water resources management, contaminant remediation, and sustainable agriculture. Currently, I am working on quantifying carbon and nitrogen budgets in agricultural soils under different management strategies and developing models to identify potential for net negative emissions.

-  How did you first become interested in soil modelling and learn about ISMC?

I first became interested in soil modelling during my PhD. As I became aware of several continuum-scale models (single porosity, dual porosity, etc.) being used to account for preferential flow and transport processes in structured soils, I could not find exact mathematical relationships that described the behaviour of these processes under heterogeneous macropore distributions. Such research bears importance to agricultural systems where soil and crop management practices can modify soil structure and alter macropore densities. My expertise is in mathematical modelling and therefore, I employed model inter-comparisons and Bayesian framework to identify which model best describes preferential transport under different macropore distributions and how uncertain are preferential flow outputs when the exact nature of parameter structure and correlations are unknown. Results from these studies are described in Arora et al. 1,2. My Berkeley Laboratory mentor Dr. Susan Hubbard was instrumental in introducing me to the ISMC activities.

-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

Over the past few years, my research has focused on answering the following questions:

  • What can we learn from existing datasets? What are the emergent patterns in biogeochemical responses across natural and managed landscapes3,4?
  • Where are these responses most variable across space (hotspots) and time (hot moments)5?  
  • Why do these patterns of hot spots/hot moments emerge? What are the underlying processes that contribute to these patterns6?  
  • Can we use high-fidelity numerical models to improve our understanding and prediction of dominant processes in biogeochemical responses7?

More recently, research from my group has focused on developing and applying agricultural models to understand nitrogen cycle and how they are impacted by managed aquifer recharge8. Such models and tools are potentially relevant to ISMC to inform how management strategies and disturbance may modify soil biogeochemical responses in space and time.

-Please tell us how can ISMC help you advance in your career?

ISMC offers an opportunity to network and collaborate with modelers and like-minded scientists. It not only provides a global platform to exchange and collaborate on ideas through working groups and team meetings, but it really is at the forefront of soil modelling activities. In this regard, ISMC can help develop out-of-the-box ideas or research topics that have not been considered or well-funded thus far. Crowdsourced papers that involve this diverse, international soil modelling community can be instrumental in pushing these ideas forward.

- 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?

One skill that I would recommend to ISMC early career members is using interdisciplinary approaches and tools. My own research has benefited significantly from integrating across disciplines to develop a comprehensive understanding about biogeochemical responses across scales. There are many advantages to using an interdisciplinary approach – one, that it provides different angles, assumptions and solutions to a given problem and two, it amplifies diverse voices and promotes a culture of team science.


1 Arora, B., B. P. Mohanty, and J. T. McGuire (2011), Inverse estimation of parameters for multidomain flow models in soil columns with different macropore densities, Water Resources Research, DOI: 10.1029/2010WR009451.

2 Arora, B., B. P. Mohanty, and J. T. McGuire (2012), Uncertainty in dual permeability model parameters for structured soils, Water Resources Research, DOI: 10.1029/2011WR010500.

3 Newcomer, M. N., N. Bouskill, H. Wainwright, T. Maavara, B. Arora, E. Siirila- Woodburn, D. Dwivedi, K. Williams, C. Steefel, and S. Hubbard (2021), Hysteresis Patterns of Watershed Nitrogen Retention and Loss over the past 50 years in United States Hydrological Basins, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, DOI: 10.1029/2020GB006777.

4Arora, B., M. Burrus, M. Newcomer, C. Steefel, R. Carroll, D. Dwivedi, W. Dong, K. Williams and S. S. Hubbard (2020), Differential C-Q Analysis: A New Approach to Inferring Lateral Transport and Hydrologic Transients within Multiple Reaches of a Mountainous Headwater Catchment, Frontiers in Water, DOI: 10.3389/frwa.2020.00024.

5 Arora, B., D. Dwivedi, B. Faybishenko, R. Jana, and H. M. Wainwright (2019a), Understanding and Predicting Vadose Zone Processes Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry: Reactive transport in Natural and Engineered Systems, 85 (1), DOI: 10.2138/rmg.2019.85.10.

6 Arora, B., H. M. Wainwright, D. Dwivedi, L. J. S. Vaughn, J. B. Curtis, M. S. Torn, B. Dafflon and S. S. Hubbard (2019b), Evaluating Temporal Controls on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Fluxes in an Arctic Tundra Environment: An Entropy-Based Approach, Science of the Total Environment, DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.251.

7 Dwivedi, D., B. Arora, C. I. Steefel, B. Dafflon, R. Veersteg (2018), Hot Spots and Hot Moments of Nitrogen in a Riparian Corridor, Water Resources Research, DOI: 10.1002/2017WR022346.

8 Waterhouse, H., B. Arora, N. Spycher, P. S. Nico, C. Ulrich, H. Dahlke, and W. Horwarth (2021), Influence of Agricultural Managed Aquifer Recharge and Stratigraphic Heterogeneities on Nitrate Reduction in the Deep Subsurface, Water Resources Research, DOI: 10.1029/2020WR029148


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