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ISMC News Dec 22 2023

Announcements + Featured Paper + Featured Soil Modeller
1. Announcements
 
The registration for the 4th ISMC Conference “Advances in Modeling Soil Systems, Earth System Science, and Beyond” from May 7-10, 2024 at Tianjin, China is now open. 
 
Important dates
Submission Deadline for Abstracts: February 16, 2024 (Friday)
Notification of Oral and Poster Presentation Assignments: February 29, 2024 (Thursday)
The Online Registration Deadline: April 30, 2024 (Monday)
 
Conference information, abstract submission and registration can be found here,
 
 
Awards for ISMC members 2023
Congratulations on your achievement and contribution to soil science, hydrology, and soil modeling.
The Wolf Prize 2023 was awarded to Rien van Genuchten and the EGU Alfred Wegner medal was awarded to Harry Vereecken. 
 
 
We welcome the new ISMC members 2023
Mouiz W. I. A. Yessoufou, Sarah Smet, Mehdi Rahmati, Tobias Weber, Read Admire, Bernard Cosby, Nele Gloy, Christian Bödeker, Greta Formaglio, Simeon Leisch, Madina Diancoumba, Mayssa Harfouch, Ines Astrid Tougma, Linda Lechner, Brit Weier, Stephan Adam, Abhishek Gogna, Amir Hajjarpoor, Asmae Meziane, Steffen Beck-Broichsitter, Muhammad Faraz, Ali Didevarasl, Duo Jiang, Emanuele Serra, Janine Wit, Anna Strekalovskaya, Magdalena Vinkler Schwartzkopff, Chen Yiting, Carolina Bilibio, Abdelrazek Elnashar, Shahabaldin Shojaeezadeh
 
On our own account
The newsletter team and ISMC wish you a pleasant holiday and all the best for the next year. ISMC wants to thank those people responsible for the newsletter: Sagar Gautam, Yijian Zeng, Martine van der Ploeg, Salini Sasidharan, and Lutz Weihermüller.
 
 
2. 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. Submission can be done here.
 
A bimodal extension of the ARYA&PARIS approach for predicting hydraulic properties of structured soils
The main purpose of this paper is to develop a bimodal pedotransfer function to obtain soil water retention (WRC) and hydraulic conductivity (HCC) curves. The proposed pedo-transfer function (PTF) extends the Arya and Paris (AP) approach, which is based on particle size distribution (PSD), by incorporating aggregate-size distribution (ASD) into the PTF to obtain the bimodal WRC. A bimodal porosity approach was developed to quantify the fraction of each of the porous systems (matrix and macropores) in overall soil porosity. Saturated hydraulic conductivity, K0, was obtained from WRC using the Kozeny-Carman equation, whose parameters were inferred from the behaviour of the bimodal WRC close to saturation. Finally, the Mualem model was applied to obtain the HCC. In order to calibrate the PTF, measured soil physical and hydraulic properties data were used, coming from field infiltration experiments from an irrigation sector of 140 ha area in the “Sinistra Ofanto” irrigation system in Apulia, southern Italy. The infiltration data were fitted by using both bimodal and unimodal hydraulic properties by an inverse solution of the Richards equation. The bimodal “measured” hydraulic properties were then used to calibrate the scaling parameter (αAP) of the proposed bimodal AP (bimAP) PTF. Similarly, for the sake of comparison with the bimodal results, the unimodal hydraulic properties were used to calibrate the αAP of the classical unimodal AP (unimAP) PTF. Compared to the unimAP PTF, the proposed bimAP significantly improves the predictions of the mean WRC parameters and K0, as well as the prediction of the shape of the whole HCC. Moreover, compared to the unimodal approach, it also allows to reproduce statistics of the hydraulic parameters (for example, variance) similar to those observed in the calibration dataset. Multiple linear regression (MLR) was also applied to analyse the sensitivity of the bimodal αAP parameter to textural and structural features, confirming significant predictive effects of soil structure.
 
3. Featured Soil Modeller
 
Stefano Manzoni
Minimalist modelling of complex soil processes  
Stefano Manzoni earned a Ph.D. in Hydrology at Duke University (NC, USA) and worked as a researcher both at Duke University and at the Swedish University for Agricultural Sciences (Sweden), before joining the Department of Physical Geography at Stockholm University as an Associate Professor in Ecohydrology in 2014. His research interests include hydro-climatic impacts on carbon and nutrient cycling, ecological stoichiometry, soil-vegetation-atmosphere interactions, as well as sustainable resource use and management. In 2020 he was awarded a European Research Council consolidator grant to study microbial adaptation in soils.
 
- Please tell us briefly about yourself and your research interest.
I am an environmental engineer by training, which provided me with a process-based mindset and mathematical tools to describe ecosystem processes. While in my PhD I worked mostly on soil carbon and nutrient cycling, in my postdoc I turned to vegetation dynamics, and later delved into biodiversity and sustainability questions, with side projects on topics ranging from disease dynamics to catchment hydrology and biogeochemistry. I love diversity in research—I would not be able to work on a single topic for too long. Yet, soils have remained my main research focus in the past 20 years. I have investigated soil carbon and nutrient cycling from a dynamical system perspective (and still do thanks to ongoing work with Ph.D. student Erik Schwarz), from a microbial ecology perspective focusing on microbe-water relations (with Ph.D. student Xiankun Li) and diversity-function relations (with former postdoc Swamini Khurana), and from a whole ecosystem perspective looking at mycorrhizae and their role in carbon storage (with Ph.D. student Malin Forsberg). Most of my work relies on process-based, conceptual, and stochastic models of water, carbon, and nutrient cycles, which are tested using local-to-global scale datasets. In these models, I aim for simplicity, to gain mathematical insights on the described processed. However, we have also conducted field campaigns to assess how agricultural activities alter soil carbon dynamics (with former Ph.D. student John Livsey and postdoc Anna Scaini)—a question that is now more timely than ever—and we actively collaborate with microbial ecologists and soil scientists to design laboratory experiments to test model predictions.
 
-  How did you first become interested in soil modelling and learn about ISMC?
My M.Sc. thesis supervisor—Prof. Amilcare Porporato—proposed me to write a thesis on the responses of soil carbon dynamics to unpredictable fluctuations in soil moisture. That’s when my interest in soil modelling started. At that time, I didn’t think that my thesis would become the beginning of an academic career, but it did. I continued working with Amilcare as a Ph.D. student on related topics, and then branched out to other research areas. Only about one and a half years ago I learned about ISMC thanks to the kind invitation by Kathe Todd-Brown to join the working group on ‘Mathematics of Soil Processes’. Thanks Kathe for involving me!
 
-Can you share with us your current research focus?
Soil microorganisms drive the cycling of carbon and nutrients, but their responses to environmental fluctuations are hard to predict, because they are not fixed through time. Microbial community composition shifts and individual taxa evolve over time scales comparable to those of the fluctuations. This means that we have to account for these eco-evolutionary processes in our models. With postdocs Arjun Chakrawal and Pierre Quévreux, and Erik Schwarz as well (and collaborating with Elsa Abs and others), we are developing optimization-based models that let model parameters (mapping onto microbial traits) vary through time for microbes to maximize their fitness. This is a fascinating topic at the intersection of mathematics and ecology, which hopefully will provide new insights on soil microbial adaptation to global change.
 
-Please tell us how can ISMC help you advance in your career?
The ISMC working group on ‘Mathematics of Soil Processes’ has been perfect to meet new colleagues and to catch up with others I had already met or collaborated with. Most importantly, this working group represents a fantastic networking opportunity for early career scientists in my group.
 
- 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?
Soils are complex and their dynamics are the result of multiple interacting physical, chemical, and biological processes. We cannot know every aspect of these processes (at least I can’t!) so learning how to communicate with experts in diverse research areas is fundamental. These interactions are also a fun component of doing science. Plus, the most novel ideas often emerge precisely at the boundaries among disciplines.
 
I have always followed my curiosity when designing research projects, but curiosity is not enough to get projects funded. Writing proposals is much about framing our own ideas in the broader context set by the call for funding, and getting them funded is an exercise of patience, perseverance, and self-motivation. These are skills that can be learned, but that’s where ISMC (and all our colleagues!) can also help. I find it useful to have critical friends to share the commitment to write a proposal (if you don’t write it, it won’t get funded!), and exchange feedback and the proposal draft. ISMC could help create a ‘safe’ environment for this type of interaction.
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