Graduate Programs

Graduate Degree Programs


The Soil Science Department offers several graduate education opportunities to prepare for careers with public and private organizations in soil and environmental sciences. In addition to thesis-based Master of Science and Doctoral programs, two non-thesis Master options are also available for those who prefer to expand their education of soil science without a research emphasis: the Soils option in a Master of Natural Resources is a campus-based program, whereas a Master of Soil Science is available as both a campus-based and a distance education program.

Our average enrollment of 40 graduate students come from a wide range of disciplines. To insure that all are well founded in the discipline of Soil Science, students are expected to acquire competence through course work in the following sub-disciplines (four for Masters and all five for PhD programs): Soil Physics, Soil Chemistry, Soil Microbiology, Soil Genesis and Classification, and Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition. We also offer advanced soil science graduate courses in analytical methods, chemistry, environmental applications, geomorphology, mineralogy, remote sensing, tropical soils, and wetland soils.

Graduate education in the major sub-disciplines of Soil Science focuses on program areas where our faculty have ongoing multi-disciplinary activities with collaborators in other departments at N.C. State, UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke Universities; State and federal agencies; and private industries. Current research activities among these program areas are described in the following:

Buffers, Water and Air Quality
  • Nutrient contributions from agricultural and forested systems on water quality in watersheds
  • Elucidation of denitrification potential of riparian buffers
  • Microbial source tracking of biological pollutants in surface waters
  • Atmospheric emissions/depositions of N compounds and their temporal/spatial patterns in ambient aerosol concentrations

Molecular Environmental Soil Science
  • Determination and reactivity of solid-phase chemical species of phosphorus and trace elements
  • Soil microbial ecophysiology, community diversity and composition, and nutrient cycling in managed and natural ecosystems
  • Nucleic acid-based methods for identification of enteric bacteria in soil and water matrices
  • Thermodynamics and kinetics of aqueous and interfacial reactions controlling biogeochemical cycling of natural and anthropogenic species

Nutrient Management
  • Efficient, site-specific and environmentally sound fertilization programs for Christmas trees, apples, field crops and horticultural crops
  • Soil nutrient management and biology of organic cropping systems
  • Remote sensing and related geospatial technologies for site-specific soil fertility and productivity management
  • Tillage effects on soil nutrients, water storage and physical properties
  • Determination of nutrient availability coefficients for organic sources
  • Soil acidity management

Septic Systems and Soil Properties
  • Soil properties important in waste management
  • Evaluation of environmental impacts of failing septic systems via microbial source tracking tools

Soil Physical Properties and Transport Processes
  • Effects of macropores on water and solute flow in soils and saprolites
  • Effects of waste disposal on soil hydraulic properties
  • Monitoring soil water storage for management decision support in North Carolina
  • Management effects on carbon storage for organic soils of the Coastal Plain
  • Soil heat and water processes to improve land-surface models
  • Effects of tillage on chemical transport in agricultural systems
  • Infiltration and runoff generation in urban systems
  • Hydraulic properties of golf course soil materials

Stormwater and Erosion Control
  • Erosion control systems for construction site slopes
  • Sediment and turbidity control for construction site runoff

Waste Management
  • Land application of lagoon effluent and its contribution to bacterial loading in groundwater
  • Increases in soil test phosphorus from swine-lagoon sludge applications

Wetland Soils
  • Estimating water table depth through soil morphology
  • Restoration of wetland vegetation and soil properties
  • Remote sensing applications for assessment of hydrology and vegetation
  • Evaluating wetland restoration success through redox potential measurements