Studying Soil Science

I’ve found myself getting more and more focussed on Soil Science, and wanting to research and test the effects of some of the ideas and systems that I am working on. Without access to academic papers, journals, expensive text books and laboratory equipment I am unlikely to be able to test my ideas sufficiently, so decided that I needed to go to University to do so.

Soil Science Degree

The only soil science degree in the UK is delivered by Aberdeen University. This link will take you to details of their course. [Soil Science Degree]. I need to be able to travel home each weekend to try and keep on top of my normal work (seven days work condensed into two), so Aberdeen was too far. When I looked at the degree content there wasn’t any more soil science content than many other agricultural or environmental science degrees.

Degree Programs

I did quite a bit of research into the amount of soil science content available from different universities and the courses that they offer, and have accepted an offer to study a BSc Agricultural and Crop Sciences degree at the University of Nottingham. Having looked at the modules on offer from around the university, it looks like I can pack enough soil science stuff into my degree to make the time worthwhile. There are a couple of timetable clashes between compulsory modules on my course and other modules that I’d like to cover, especially in the first year. If these can’t be resolved I’ll switch courses after the first year and move to study Environmental Biology, which will give me more flexibility, and allow me to focus on soil biology. This course may become a taught Masters by then which would give me a total of five years of study.


All of the feedback that I’ve had from the academics that I’ve chatted to about my soil science projects is that it’s probably PhD level work. I’m not sure how I feel about staying on for longer to achieve that, but want to explore the option of running my project all of the way through my studies, so that it could be ‘PhD ready’ by the end of it. To do that I will need to make sure that it is set up and run correctly from the outset, which is this July, before my course even starts. That will be the focus of my research once my college course finishes.

12 thoughts on “Studying Soil Science

  1. Marc

    Good luck!! I do not know if this is the same sort of thing, but
    If you have any specific questions, my next door neighbour works on an organic recycling plant. Making compost. I know he has had to complete some courses about anorobic decomposition. I am fairly sure he does not have a degree. So he may know of other courses or options open to you either to do along side the degree or if the degree is not what you hoped, in place of it. If this is of any help or interest just reply direct by email. Enjoy your studies

  2. Gill

    Good luck! Soil is not only the answer, it’s the only answer – to growing healthy crops, to mitigating the effects of climate change and to feeding the hordes of humans on the planet. We will all await your blog posts (you’ll have so much free time ;-)) with eager anticipation.

    1. Deano Martin Post author

      Will have to get back into the habit.
      Summer was always a hard time to keep up to date with the long days meaning I don’t finish work until late.

  3. Joshua Msika

    Interesting move!

    Having gone through uni recently with a great deal of permaculture reading in the back of my head, I think you might get disappointed by undergraduate-level courses. Your conversations with researchers seem to confirm my hunch when they say that your interests are PhD-level stuff. Most undergraduate courses do not go much further than a good textbook (and are quite a bit more expensive).

    Since you seem to be very happy researching and trialling things yourself, what you seem to be looking for is access to other people’s work – journal articles, etc. I wonder if there are any universities with good subscriptions in the soil science field that would let you join as an “associate student” of some kind? Maybe the Open University does something like this?

    Reading your post again, it looks like you’ve already gone ahead and joined a uni course. There’s a lot to be said for joining an institution and the contacts and networking you get out of it, but I suspect that in terms of permaculture-relevant research, you’ll still have to do a lot of work yourself.

    I’m happy to chat more if you have questions. I graduated from the University of St Andrews with a BSc in Sustainable Development last year and I now work in the social research department of the James Hutton Institute ( I have a keen interest in soil science and permaculture and would love to follow your work as you go through your degree.

    1. Deano Martin Post author

      Hi Joshua
      Staying in touch would be great.
      James Hutton has a good reputation in soil related stuff.
      Some of the researchers at Nottingham collaborate with peeps there.

  4. Sue Rine

    Hi Deano,
    Good on you. Dr Deano in a few years maybe! I studied agriculture a few decades ago and the soils paper were probably my favourite of the whole degree. I’m loving updating my knowledge recently (as applied to grazing management), through reading and videos of Allan Savory and Christine Jones and the like.
    All the best.

  5. Anni Kelsey

    Hi Deano and wow what a move. I have long been impressed with your thoroughness and desire to get to the bottom of everything that interests you. Looking forward to hearing how this pans out for you personally and to what you find out from study / ongoing experiments. I did a bit of soil science in the first year of my geography degree (long time ago!) and it was fascinating. Things have probably moved on lots since then as well. All the best. Anni

    1. Deano Martin Post author

      Hi Anni
      Getting much closer now, and cannot wait. Am having to cut back here a bit, but nothing that cannot be resurrected again in the future.
      All of the best

  6. Jennifer Carfrae

    Hi there,

    Just in case you are interested there is a soils MSc at Edinburgh University, it is a taught course with dissertation and is very hands on and applied as is taught by the agriculture college.

    All the best,


    1. Deano Martin Post author

      Hi Jenn
      Too far to travel home at weekends to work. The module list/content is very similar so Nottingham works well. Almost at the end of year one now.


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