GOOD FIELD NOTES continued

5)  Also related to 3, consistent organization of your notes is very helpful.  Always organize your horizon observations so you can go through your descriptive process in a way that develops repetition and order.  You will become less likely to forget the numerous little details.  By convention, and this means it is more of a guideline than a rule, soil profiles are described from the top down.  Soil-forming processes act from the top down so soil descriptions tend to follow this vector.  Geologists frequently describe profiles from the bottom up (oldest to youngest).  Their interests are in the processes of deposition/erosion.  Although our interests cannot be completely separated, ours are primarily in the processes of non-deposition/erosion (those that occur in the absence of deposition and erosion).

6)  A good profile description will be accompanied by a profile drawing that shows the arrangement and relative thickness of each horizon to scale.  The drawing may also point out the location in the profile of specific features like:  the depth at which the best clay skins are found, the point at which manganese stains occur, the location of animal borrows, where samples/photographs were taken, etc. 

7)  Now that you've described the profile and have shown it in a landscape and Catenary context with maps and diagrams it may be useful to note how the soil morphology matches up/or doesn't match up with what you expected.  This is the time to address hypotheses for the genesis of the soil properties you observed.  Remember, in description and classification we don't need to know genesis (why?) but as soil scientists and geographers, the question of genesis is linked to landscape evolution, natural vegetation, human land-use etc.  We want to know about genesis because it is a clue to past and present conditions on the surface of the Earth (the home for human beings).  Jot down your ideas or the questions you still need to answer about soil genesis.

8)  Your notes will be read by other professional from diverse fields with vastly different levels of soil knowledge and understanding (engineers, geologists, biologists, hydrologists, surveyors, tennis pros).  If you become embroiled in legal controversy the list of professionals reading your field notes will include lawyers, judges and accountants.  No non-standard English abbreviations are permissible.  If it's not an abbreviation found in the Funk and Wagnell's dictionary, you can't use it.  Similarly, no allusions to things not observable at the field site unless a reference is given to direct the reader to what you're talking about.  You can't say, "looks like the hills by Grandma's house" (even if this is indeed true).  You can say, "landscape here at the such-and-such site appears similar to that observed at the so-and-so site (see 1994 field notebook 2, pages ??-?? or, see the description in Jones and Smith, 1996, Title, Publisher, etc.)".

 

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