SOILS 499: Co-evolution of Land and People

Course Details

SOILS 499 (Topic CO-EVOL LAND PEOPL) will be taught in 2023.  Any student can take SOILS 499 in Spring 2023. You must apply to take part in SOILS 499 (international travel) in Summer 2023.  

Spring 2023: SOILS 499, W 6-9pm, Ferguson 003, 3 credits

Summer 2023: SOILS 499, May 8 or 9 to May 22 or 23, 0.25 credits

Students traveling with SOILS 499 will be required to purchase trip insurance and travel abroad health insurance. Dr. Drohan, and the College or University Global offices, can help you find sources for both.

Course Description

How do a landscape and its people evolve through time? SOILS 499 examines this question and focuses particularly on the role of land ownership, government, and its effect on people and natural resources, especially in the context of the evolution of culture, society, and civilization. Readings examine the role that forms of government have had in shaping culture and land tenure, management of natural resources with population growth, and the stability of civilizations. Finally, this course examines our current civilization in the context of past ones, and evaluates its future stability.

Students admitted to the Maymester abroad program (SOILS 499, 0.25 cr) will work with Dr. Drohan and collaborators of his in the Northern Ireland Agriculture, Food and Biosciences Institute (Belfast) and the Republic of Ireland’s Teagasc agriculture and food development authority at Johnstown Castle, Wexford Ireland. We begin our trip by visiting Wexford in the south and go far back in time to study the history of old Ireland with visits to the Irish National Heritage Park living history museum and then the Viking towns of Waterford and Wexford. These towns were also invaded by the Normans and important in the history of the Irish Rebellion. We will examine past agricultural and land tenure issues and their role in the Irish famine. We will investigate modern agricultural production practices with Irish sheep and dairy farmers and examine current agricultural challenges set forth under the Irish Agricultural directives Food Harvest 2020 and Foodwise 2025. We will examine soil and water protection under the Irish Environmental Protection Agency and visit several different land management projects. Next we drive to the central part of the country to visit with archaeologists and then onto Belfast where we examine Northern Ireland’s land use history and current land management challenges with scientists from Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).

Course Objectives

Upon completion of SOILS 499 (SP23 and SU23), students will demonstrate:

  1. deep understanding of fundamental land management processes that have resulted in the genesis of Ireland's land use composition;
  2. familiarity with soil analytical and testing protocols for common laboratory and field measurements used in studying land use management in Ireland and the European Union; 
  3. skills for interpreting land management policies and their effect on land owners;  
  4. accurate prediction of land management outcomes given various scenarios dictated by the Irish government or European Union; 
  5. the ability to interpret agricultural analytical data (physical, biological, and chemical data) to qualify a soil's health, and be able to apply this information to make land use interpretations per EU Landmark 2020 goals.


  • 0.25 Summer tuition - flat fee of $200
  • Trip/travel insurance - estimated $300
  • International medical insurance covered by Penn State - $0
  • Program fee - estimated $2700 includes flight, lodging, most entrance fees, in-country transportation, some meals


SOILS 101, its equivalent, or permission of instructor

Questions or Application

Contact Dr. Drohan with questions at To apply for the Summer 2023 (international travel), please write a one-page statement about why this course is important to you and provide the contact information for two Penn State faculty to serve as references for you. Applications are due on or before November 7, 2022 and can be sent to Dr. Drohan at

Ag Sciences Global


106 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802

Ag Sciences Global


106 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802