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ES/Geography 304 - Principles of Soil Science

One of UWO’s innovative community based learning courses.

Prereq. – 8 credits, any lab science



GEOG 304 students collect soil samples at AGM Nature Preserve.

Why soils?

Soils are one of the four things we can’t live without. That’s right, it’s actually ‘Water, air, sun, and soil.

Soils truly are the foundation of our lives; they’re how we grow our food, filter our water, and where we build our properties.

Studying soils can tell us many things and may even play a role in mitigating climate change!




Students Get Involved at AGM Nature Preserve

UWO’s general education program is special because it allows students to apply their what they’ve learned to real-world problems. Throughout the semester, students in ES/GEOG 304 get to work with their community partner, AGM Nature Preserve. 

They are tasked with examining how conservation management practices may have altered the soil’s physical, chemical, and biological properties.

Students will use a variety of field and lab techniques to complete their tasks. They collect soil samples, processed and sorted them, then measured soil pH, texture, color, and organic matter. 

The field process culminates with a final report for the partner, summarizing findings and suggestions for future land management decisions.



AGM Nature Preserve

Classroom Content

Atmosphere and Learning Objectives

Throughout ES/GEOG 304, students will gain a comprehensive knowledge of the fundamentals of soil science. Students will learn the following concepts:

  • How soils form (soil genesis)
  • Soil classification and properties
  • Conservation management practices and considerations
  • Use of real data and scientific papers
  • Soil mapping
  • Ability to communicate findings to real client

This course also combines classroom content with hands-on experience.


“This project bridges academic theory and real-world practice and helps students see how the things they have been learning about in class can be applied to real-world questions.”

Kathryn "Katy" Hofmeister

Geog 304 Professor

All are welcome!

This course welcomes students from various majors, creating a diverse learning community. No previous experience is required. Students will focus on their own interests and bring their unique perspectives to soils.

“I would recommend Geography 304 to other students because it provides a very interesting and well-rounded view of the study of soil while also providing fun and exciting hands-on lab activities and fieldwork. “

Ely Hartl

Former GEOG 304 Student



About Our Community Partners

Helen and Ed Adams

Located in Fremont, WI, AGM Nature Preserve is 150 acres of land that was once a fully functioning dairy farm until the Adams’ converted it to managed forest, native prairie, and spruce plantation.

GEOG 304 students will investigate potential changes to physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the soil resulting from their conservation management.