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Soil and Water Summer Experience – Julia Lee

The UF/IFAS soil and water sciences department is offering students the chance to blog about their summer experiences. The students enrolled in one of three courses over the summer, for which they received credit: SWS 4905-Individual Work, SWS 4911-Supervised Research in Soil and Water Science, and SWS 4941 Practical Work Experience. This is Julia Lee’s summer experience:


My name is Julia Lee and I am majoring in soil and water sciences with a concentration in soil science. This summer, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Vimala Nair in the UF/IFAS Soil Chemistry Core Laboratory. The lab runs a variety of tests related to soil chemistry, soil biology, analyses of ions, polymer analyses, and organic-inorganic compounds.

Since phosphorus (P) is an essential nutrient for plants, and excess P causes eutrophication in water bodies, measuring soil P is crucial in various studies. During the summer, I learned several techniques that are commonly used for determining P concentrations in soils. The P extraction methods I got to experience were Mehlich-3 (M-3), Water-Soluble Phosphorus (WSP), Anion Exchange Resin Membranes (AERM), Iron Oxide Strip (FeO-P), and H3A Test (H3A version 4).

I also became familiar with the preparation of soil samples and solutions for different extractions. Additionally, I learned many skills that could be used in any lab setting. These include weighing soil using a balance to sort soils, sieving soils through a 2mm screen, using crucibles to prepare needed samples, diluting solutions, and lab maintenance in general.

Applying Skills

Many of my SWS courses allowed me to build a strong foundation in soil chemistry and soil management. Therefore, understanding the concept of given tasks and related background information was pretty easy to follow.  This summer, I realized different methods require various amounts of soil samples, reagents, processing time, and tools, but a lot of steps are similar for the P extraction. For me, Iron Oxide Strip was the most frustrating and memorable method. Iron Oxide Strip requires many tedious and repetitive steps. I had to crush Ferric Chloride hexahydrate which feels just like rocks during preparation. After a while of crushing these, I was having a hard time trying to open my hands all the way!