This 1-credit course consists of lectures and discussion on soil health concepts, research, policy, and programming. Participants will examine the linkages between soil health, food security, environmental quality and public health. Course lectures will be given by PSU faculty and invited speakers from the federal and state government, non-profit organizations, and other universities.

Time and Location

Lecture, Tuesdays, 4:35-5:25 pm
112 Forest Resources Building (FRB)

Course Instructors

Dr. Patrick Drohan
Office: ASI 452
Office Hours: Monday 2 pm or by Appt.

Dr. Mary Ann Bruns
Office: ASI 206
Office Hours: Thursdays 4-5 pm or by Appt.



Student Requirements

  • Quizzes on readings - 25%
  • Class participation - 25%
  • Online exercises - 25%
  • Online summaries and commentaries on readings - 25%


Final course grades will be based on your percentage and assigned as follows:

  • A = >93% percent
  • A- = 90 -92 percent
  • B+ = 87 - 89 percent
  • B = 83 - 86 percent
  • B- = 80 - 82 percent
  • C+ = 77 - 79 percent
  • C = 70 - 76 percent
  • D = 61 - 69 percent
  • F = less than 60 percent

Required Texts

Readings will be available on CANVAS



We expect that students will come to this class with very different backgrounds and levels of educational training. As a result, you may find some material difficult, feel that you are already familiar with some of the concepts, or have personal experiences that can inform us all. Whatever your situation, please share your position with us through class participation. Most importantly, however, if you are confused about a concept, please ask questions in class for clarification and further explanation. You will not be alone in your confusion. There are many ways to present this material, and we will attempt to find one that works for you. If you do not feel comfortable asking questions in class, please contact one of the instructors during office hours.

Cell phone/pager policy

Your cell phone/pager should be turned off during class.


It is important that you attend class daily because we cover a lot of material, and I will provide guidance for reading assignments and exam questions regularly. You are responsible for all material covered in lectures no matter what causes your absence. If you miss a lecture, get the notes from a classmate. Topics covered may vary from the schedule somewhat, but the exam dates remain fixed. If you are absent from a scheduled exam, lecture or lab without a written medical, military, or university excuse, you will receive a zero for that course component. The final exam is required of all students.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, students should act with personal integrity, respect other students' dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts. Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others (see Faculty Senate Policy 49‐20 and G‐9 Procedures)

Read the Academic Integrity Guidelines for the College of Agricultural Sciences

A lack of knowledge or understanding of the University's Academic Integrity policy and the types of actions it prohibits and/or requires does not excuse one from complying with the policy. Penn State and the College of Agricultural Sciences take violations of academic integrity very seriously. Faculty, alumni, staff and fellow students expect each student to uphold the University's standards of academic integrity both in and outside of the classroom.

Disability Services (DS)

The Pennsylvania State University encourages qualified people with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities and is committed to the policy that all people shall have equal access to programs, facilities, and admissions without regard to personal characteristics not related to ability, performance, or qualifications as determined by University policy or by state or federal authorities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation in this course or have questions about physical access, please tell the instructor as soon as possible.

Religious Holidays

A student missing a class or lab assignment because of observance of a religious holiday shall have the opportunity to make up missed work. Please notify me as soon as possible if this pertains to you and a clear deadline will be set for completion of work.


To do well in this class you should study and work with the material daily. At the end of each day, read your notes and make sure that you understand what you wrote; if something isn't clear in your own mind it will be readily apparent to you. For best results, do this within 24 hours of when class ends. Keep up with reading assignments, labs, and lecture material. It is harder to come from behind than to stay engaged daily. If you get confused or have questions that have not been resolved in lecture or laboratory, then do not hesitate to contact us. Meeting with us during office hours is best because we have set aside this time for you. If you cannot make any of the office hours, call or email for an appointment. We are here to help you learn and succeed, but you have to be pro-active in this endeavor. Cramming for exams is the least productive thing you can do! In previous classes, over 90% of the students who fail the class didn't attend class regularly.


Week of 8/22

Topic: Origins of the soil health concept
Readings: 1-5

Week of 8/29

Topic: History of Modern Soil Quality Concepts
Readings: 6-10

Week of 9/5

Topic: Institutional Roles in Soil Health (Federal agencies (Jenny's arguments for DOI vs USDA vs USGS, SCS, Soil Survey, NRCS, Soil Quality Institute, Resource Inventory)
Speaker: *Dr. Bianca Moebius-Clune, Director US Soil Health Division

Week of 9/12

Topic: Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health
Readings: 11-13

Week of 9/19

Topic: Forest Soil Health Concepts
Readings: 14-16
Speaker: *Dr. Deborah Page-Dumroese, US Forest Service

Week of 9/26

Topic: Soil Change Guide and Dynamic Soil Properties
Readings: 17-21

Week of 10/3

Topic: Soil Security and Degradation
Readings: 25-29

Week of 10/10

Topic: Quality and Health of Agricultural Soils
Readings: 23-24
Lecturer: Kristi Borelli

Week of 10/17

Topic: Roles of Soils and Land Use in Disease Spread: Expanding the One Health Concept
Readings: 24a-24d
Lecturer: Mary Ann Bruns

Week of 10/24

Topic: Soil Health Metrics
Readings: 22a and b
Speaker: *Dr. Jeff Herrick, USDA-ARS

Week of 10/31

Topic: Land Assessment
Readings: 30-33
*Regular class plus Nov. 2 Dr. Roger Schulte, Wageningen Univ.

Week of 11/7

Topic: No Class due to TRI-Societies Meeting

Week of 11/14

Topic: Soil Diversity
Readings: 34-35
Lecturer: Patrick Drohan

Week of 11/21

Thanksgiving Break Week

Week of 11/28

Topic: Communicating Soil Health

Week of 12/5

Soils, Societal Change and Food Security
Readings: To Be Announced
Lecturer: To Be Announced

Week of 12/11

No final exam

Office for Research and Graduate Education


217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2600

Office for Research and Graduate Education


217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2600