Fundamentals in Soil Biology and Ecology

An Online Course from the
Soil Science Society of America

Class Dates:  Spring 2014 - Information will be posted soon.

Please email Michele Lovejoy to be placed on a notification list for course information.


Fundamentals in Soil Biology and Ecology will discuss the influence of abiotic conditions on organisms and organisms' impact on their surroundings.  The course is a non-credit course taught online using distance education technologies. All lectures are recorded and posted to the class website to be viewed at a later time if you are not able to take part in the live lecture.  Quizzes will be due by the Tuesday following the next class (or 12 days later). There are no minimum requirements needed to register for this course. Students who complete both quizzes can request a certificate of completion for this course.

Costs:  $110.00 per individual plus the cost of optional resources (For a list of additional resources/books to purchase, please see the Fall 2013 Course Syllabus link below.  The same content and structure will be followed for Spring 2014.)

Full participants in the course, who are certified, will automatically receive CEUs. CCAs and CPAgs will receive a total of 4.0 Nutrient Management CEUs.  CPSS and CPSC certificants will receive 4.0 CEUs in Professional Meetings.   Lecture quizzes must be passed in order to receive the CEUs for this course.

Course Description:

Soil is a living body. As such, the living constituents of soil will be introduced including what groups of soil organisms are present (from microorganisms to macrofauna), interesting characteristics, numbers and biomass (prevalence), what they do (functional importance), and where they are (influence of the complex soil matrix). The influence of abiotic conditions on organisms and organisms’ impact on their surroundings will be discussed. As nutrient cycles are driven by biochemical activities, biogeochemical cycles will be an important topic. Decomposition of organic substrates and the synthesis of and properties impacted by soil organic matter are important topics in this section. We will finish with brief coverage of practical functional applications driven by soil biology and ecology such as composting, degradation and remediation of pollutants, and water treatment.  

This course is taught via distance learning, but the instructor will supplement lecture material with additional readings and practical examples to illustrate the concepts and provide practical examples of how the concepts are used in practice.  This course is designed to complement the students existing knowledge of soil science and help the student understand the principles behind the Soil Science Performance Objectives, which define the practice of soil science.

Fall 2013 Course Syllabus (PDF) (See the Fall 2013 syllabus for the course content and structure.  The same content and structure will be followed for Spring 2014.)

Dr. Mary C. Savin is a professor in the Department of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences (CSES) at the University of Arkansas (UA) who is interested in the microbial ecology of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Research interests include investigating how the ecology and biogeochemistry of various systems, and the ability to utilize biological organisms as objective indicators of response, are affected by disturbances such as management practices or the presence of antibiotics. Mary is a member of the UA Teaching Academy who teaches many classes, including freshmen in orientation through seniors in soils, ecology, and capstone colloquium courses, and graduate students in microbial ecology. She is a co-advisor for the CSES Undergraduate Club, which participates in the Club Poster Contest at American Society of Agronomy (ASA) annual meetings. She serves as an academic advisor for undergraduate students, and mentors M.S. and Ph.D. graduate students. Current research projects include destruction of broad host range plasmid and bacterial DNA in wastewater treatment plant disinfection, 2) native versus non-native earthworm distributions and impacts on soil functioning including N cycling, and 3) grazing management and organic production systems on soil biological responses.

Mary is an active member of ASA and current vice-chair of the Education and Extension section. She is also a Soil Science Society of America S3 Soil Biology and Biochemistry Division member. Before joining the UA in 2002, she was a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Massachusetts Lowell analyzing marine eukaryotic plankton communities. Her M.S. (1995) and Ph.D. (1999) dissertation work at the University of Rhode Island involved biodegradation of a herbicide in bog soil and investigating nutrient availability as a function of nematode-microbe interactions at different matric potentials. She continued research investigating ecological and nutrient dynamics in earthworm burrows. Prior to graduate studies, Mary worked in the Environmental Analysis Unit as a research assistant for Arthur D. Little in Cambridge, MA.

Dr. Dawn Gibas joined the SSSA staff in July 2010 as the Soil Science Program Coordinator. Most recently she was faculty at The Ohio State University in the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) where much of her research was located in Iceland studying successional landscapes, restoration and soil carbon.  She still maintains an adjunct faculty position within SENR.  Prior to her position at OSU, Dr. Gibas spent the majority of her career in environmental consulting and, for a shorter time, in county government. During her career she has, among other things, owned her own consulting business, managed the MN office of Tetra Tech, and traveled across the U.S. as part of her work. She has a B.S. in soil science from the University of Wisconsin, a M.S. in soil physics and a PhD in Forest Hydrology from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Gibas is both a licensed and certified soil scientist and has worked on issues surrounding the implementation of these programs since the early 1990s; Dr. Gibas has been involved with the Council of Soil Science Examiners since its inception and was the chair for several years.  She also held a Governor appointed position as the Soil Science Board Member on the MN Board of Architecture, Engineering, Land Surveying, Landscape Architecture, Geoscience and Interior Design.

Briefly, some of the primary objectives of Dr. Gibas’s position with SSSA include overseeing the soil science licensing and certification programs for SSSA (including legislative issues), facilitating continuing education for soil scientists, and to overall help to grow the soil science profession by working with and facilitating communication between the private sector, government and academia.


Please contact Michele Lovejoy ( with any questions.


Refund Policy
Participants may request a refund of their registration fee according to the following schedule:
Notification prior to the orientation date: Registration fee minus a $50.00 cancellation fee.
Notification after orientation: Non-refundable registration fee.

We use GoTo Meeting software to provide class instruction.  The system requirements to use GoToMeeting can be found at

As the information to access the seminar will be sent to you, you must have an email on file with us. If you are unsure if we have an email for you, check your profile at or - note that a login with email is required to access this information. The seminar will be conducted online. However, participants may dial-in via their phone line (at their cost - the dial-in number will not be an 800 number). All participants will need internet access and your computer must be equipped with a soundcard and internal or external speakers. For those attendees wishing to access the seminar via phone only, you will still need to login prior to the seminar to access the dial-in number.

If you have any questions, please contact Michele Lovejoy, e-mail: or phone: 608-268-4947.

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