• Question: What is your favourite part about your job? What do you find most interesting?

    Asked by Hayley to Alex, Ana, Clay, Keegan, Mark on 27 Apr 2016. This question was also asked by Lucija.
    • Photo: Mark Ritchie

      Mark Ritchie answered on 27 Apr 2016:

      First of all, I love discovering new things, like when my team recently found out that grasses in Africa sometimes provide a home for large numbers of nitrogen fixing bacteria just like plants in the bean family.
      However, a close second is when I get to watch that “aha” moment when a student “gets” a new, complex idea or discovers something great about their potential

    • Photo: Alexander Taylor

      Alexander Taylor answered on 27 Apr 2016:

      I find teaching to be the most satisfying part of my job. Seeing that “aha” moment that Mark talks about, when something really clicks for a students, is very humbling and gratifying. I also love talking with students, understanding how they see the world, and hearing their perspectives on the information they’re learning. A lot of the time they teach me new ways to see the things I’m teaching them!

    • Photo: Clay Robinson

      Clay Robinson answered on 4 May 2016:

      Favorite part?
      Sharing the excitement of new things with other people. I enjoy taking students on trips to see things they never saw or even imagined before. When I would take college students on trips to other states to study soils, there would always be at least one student who, like Sam said to Frodo in the movie of JRR Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring” would say, “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home that I’ve ever been.” One time a student was in 6 states they had never before visited, and saw things in soils and crop production they had never seen before.
      Most interesting?
      The variability in soils. I have been surprised to find springs flowing out of the top of a hill, 30 m above the landscape all around it. I have seen wetlands (which usually occur on flat lands in the bottom of the landscape) on hillslopes of more than 5%.
      Even within a few meters in some places, the soil can completely change. There is also variability from top to bottom as you dig a hole: the color changes, the texture (sand, silt, and clay proportions) may change, the structure (the shape of the clumps as the sand, silt, and clay particles are bound together as aggregates), may change, the chemistry may change, and the list goes on.