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SOCR 400 - Soils and Global Change: Science and Impacts

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The Earth system is undergoing continuous changes, which have profound impacts on soil and soil processes, as well as on the capacity of soil to support demand for food, fiber, and e energy. Soils and climate change are tightly linked in a series of feedback mechanisms for which understanding is critical to sustainably managing world soils. Regenerative soil management can thus become one of the solutions to climate change and sustainable food production.

Upon the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe the main components and drivers of soil biogeochemistry
  • Describe current and projected global changes, their effects on soil, and potential feedback.
  • Understand and discuss the state-of-the art methods available for the study of soil biogeochemistry and the effects of climate and land use change on soils.
  • Use Excel to analyze data from a basic experiment and produce a data report.
  • Discuss sustainable soil management options for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  • Develop and evaluate conceptual models.
  • Read and synthetize scientific literature.
  • Write a short scientific paper to articulate and substantiate proposed hypothesis.


SOCR 240 (Introductory Soil Science); LIFE 220 (Fundamentals of Ecology (GT-SC2)); or LIFE 320 - Ecology; For a prerequisite override, please contact the instructor.

Textbooks and Materials

Course readings will be posted online.


M. Francesca Cotrufo

9704916056 |

I am a soil ecologist with leading experience in the field of litter decomposition and soil organic matter C and N dynamics, and in the use of isotopic methodologies in these studies. My main research interest is in the understanding of C and N fluxes from plant or pyrogenic organic matter to soil, water and the atmosphere, and their response and feedback to global environmental changes. I also pursue applied research to propose soil management practices that increase soil quality and fertility and mitigate climate change, as for example the study of biochar in soils. As a scientist fully aware of the current and future challenges expecting humanity, I am interested in promoting research education and outreach activities, aside from my specific area of expertise, to help mitigate the current human impacts on the Earth System and assure a better sustainable path for humanity.