Studying soils has changed my perspective of my local landscapes, and you can learn to see soils, too.

Digging through a soil in College Station, TX to reveal the beautiful colors associated with redox reactions in saturated soils.

Just the other day, I was taking the bus through town. I was the only person on the bus that afternoon. The bus driver, let’s call him Ted, was bubbling over with enthusiasm that day. When I asked him how long he had been a bus driver in town, he responded with a wave of reasons for why he has loved his job since he started 2.5 years ago.

Reason number 1. Ted enjoys meeting new people and talking to folks from…

a lesson I learned from the Entisol

Listen to an audio version of this essay read by the author here.

One line soil profile drawing of an Entisol with lamellae. Original artwork by the author.

Yesterday, I was running along a stretch of beautiful California coastline. The trail weaves along a bluff that is the youngest in a series of coastal terraces that formed through the combined processes of uplift and erosion. I am lucky to call these landscapes my training grounds.

Despite the ocean views, the first two miles of my run didn’t feel great. My calves were sore. I was generally tired from completing a high mileage week. My mind was all over…

Bands of clay accumulation, termed “lamellae”, in an otherwise sandy soil in Dresden, TN. Photo by the author.

Listen to an audio version of this essay read by the author here.

Soils are ubiquitous, and because of that they often fade into the background.

This might just be one of my most common refrains. I say it all the time. And it’s true, soils are everywhere! They are the foundation of terrestrial ecosystems. It’s also true that soils are easily taken for granted. Not just because they are everywhere, but also because soils literally make life on this planet possible. It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around that sometimes.

Soils have always been just about…

Photo by Andrew Ridley on Unsplash

I do a lot of meta-writing. I write about my writing process. About half of my essays here on Medium are writing-related. I do not write and share these essays because I think I have the best writing advice. I do not write essays about writing because I think others should approach the craft in the same way that I do. Writing is a creative process, and much of the fun comes from building your style — from selecting words to figuring out a workflow.

I write these essays because sometimes those are the words that come out during my…

I see the world through a soil lens and can’t help but write about it.

A soil profile in the floodplain of the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, USA. Photo by the author.

When I first learned about the diversity of soils, I felt like I had stumbled upon a hidden part of the natural world. I began studying soil science as an undergraduate student and quickly became enchanted by the many colors, shapes, and forms of soils. I was curious to learn more and followed that seed of curiosity with wild enthusiasm, leading me to a career I would never have expected.

Frankly, I did not see myself becoming a scientist, nor did anyone in my family…

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I write every morning (or at least I have been recently), but that doesn’t always mean I have something compelling to write about. The last few days have been a struggle in this area. I sit down to write but don’t quite know what to say. Sometimes I even have a prompt from the days prior, but I just don’t feel like going any there.

On days like these, I first reflect on why I am writing every day in the first place. …

Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

My morning writing routine is back. Here I sit on day 7 of writing before doing just about anything else (okay, I brushed my teeth and am drinking a glass of water, but before email!). I feel a lot better already. I feel more aligned with one of the identities I hold — writer — and it has also allowed me to connect differently with one of my other identities — soil scientist.

For context, I used to write consistently every morning while working on my dissertation. It was an incredibly empowering time in my life and I wrote more…

Sandy soil streaked with lamellae (thin bands of clay) in Dekalb, IL. Photo by author.

Soil is one of my most important teachers. Studying soils through a scientific lens has opened my eyes to the diversity of soil forms and the complexity of their functions. Beyond that, soil has also taught me more about my place in the world.

Soils are the living breathing skin of the Earth. They are complex, natural systems that exist in stunning variation across a landscape. Soils vary in their colors, shapes, and forms. They arise from the weathering of diverse geologies that move through landscapes in sometimes unexpected ways.

Soil scientists extract clues from the physical properties of a…

What started as a small goal, somehow snowballed into the running year I never expected.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

2020 was a particularly memorable running year for me.

It’s not what you’re thinking: I did not have my highest mileage year because the pandemic gave me “more” time. I did not come close to hitting my fastest times. I didn’t even enjoy running more than I had in any previous year. In many ways, it was my worst running year since I started running in 2016. Despite all that, 2020 was by far and away my most consistent running year ever.

I ran at…

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I used to write every morning, without fail. I would wake up, grab a glass of water or tea, feed my cats, and before checking email, social media, even texts, I would sit down to write. It felt empowering and freeing because I was really in control of my life and doing what I wanted to be doing. I was doing the things that writers do, not just saying that I was a writer, but actually being one.

It’s been a few years since that time now. In between, I changed jobs three times, moved across the country twice, got…

Yamina Pressler 🐌

soil scientist • educator • writer • runner • artist • co-founder

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