Soil Genesis, Morphology, & Classification

Syllabus Fall 2015

Course Information

Catalog Description

Chemical, biological and physical processes of soil formation leading to soil development. Recognition and description of soils. Factors of soil formation and interaction of soil with ecosystems. Morphology and diagnostic descriptions are practiced and soil classification is introduced. Laboratory work will consist of field study of the morphological features of soil and the use of soil morphology to practice soil classification. Provides practical experience describing soil properties in the field.


WSES3401 Soils; or equivalent upper division soils introduction course with laboratory.

Expanded Course Description

Topics covered include the history of soil classification, methods and characterization techniques of soil, morphologic genetic horizons, diagnostic horizons, moisture regimes, temperature regimes, detailed discussion of Soil Taxonomy. Morphologic descriptions, classification, and soil genesis discussions are enhanced by field based activities and prepare students for mapping and map interpretation.

Scheduling & Mechanics




Donald G. McGahan, Ph.D.
Office: Room 204B Joe Autry (Agriculture) Building
Office Phone: 254-968-9701
Fax: 254-968-9300
Web page:

Office Hours

By appointment. To request an appointment time, send three suggestions that work for your schedule. Please inclue the day and date, start time, and stop time for each suggestion. I will attempt to meet use one of these. Should one of the suggestedvdates not be acceptable the instructor will suggest a date and time combination.

Please remember to identify yourself, especially with initial contacts, in correspondence.

The preferred contact method is via campus email address.

Important: Always begin the email subject line with “WESE3412,” without quotes, to keep the message from the spam/junk folder, and for a more prompt response.

Required Materials

Local digital storage

This could be a flash thumb drive, portable hard drive, smartphone, tablet, computer you carry with you, and in some cases an e-reader.

For Laboratory you will need shoes with ankle support, a shade hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, a writing tablet, personal water bottle, clipboard and writing implements, and perhaps a hand towel to wash your hands.


Buol, S.W., R.J. Southard, R.C. Graham, and P.A. McDaniel. 2011. Soil Genesis and Classification, 6th edition. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN-13: 978-0-8138-0769-0 [Wiley-Blackwell online] This text is available in numerous digital formats.

Note: The text above text may also be purchased from any number of brick and mortar or online booksellers, TSU Bookstore, , Barns & Noble, Amazon, Alibris, ValoreBooks etc.

You will be reading extensively in this text.

Soil Survey Staff. 2014. Keys to Soil Taxonomy, Twelfth Edition. USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington, DC.< [online]

Note: Download the above text, print all the Keys and the Errata file and have bound at local office supply store. Bring to all laboratories.

You will want to read and reread Chapter 3 and 18 immediately.

Soil Survey Division Staff. 1993. Soil survey manual. Soil Conservation Service. U.S. Department of Agriculture Handbook 18. [online]

Print Chapters 1 and 3 and read. The balance can be referred to and read from the PDF you download to your local storage device.

Supplemental reading from

Soil Survey Staff. 1999. Soil taxonomy: A basic system of soil classification for making and interpreting soil surveys. 2nd edition. Natural Resources Conservation Service. U.S. Department of Agriculture Handbook 436. [online]

Note: Download the above text but it is not necessary to print it.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. National soil survey handbook, title 430-VI. [online].

Note: Download the above text but it is not necessary to print all of it. The instructor will advise about parts that are helpful to print to have available when in laboratory (in the field).

Other sources to be identified during the course. (Online or free via the library)

Suggested Supplemental Texts

The following items are suggestions for items you may wish to have on your bookshelf.

  1. Brady, N.C. and R. Weil. 2008. The Nature and Properties of Soils. 14thed. Prentice Hall. ISBN-13:  9780132279383

    Note: While this is a textbook it is a great reference for general soil science knowledge. Look for used copies. Previous editions are generally deprecated in the chapters addressing Soil Taxonomy. It is precisely Soil Taxonomy that you will be addressing with the required texts.

  2. Thompson, J.A. and Coyne, M.S. 2006. Math for Soil Scientists. 1sted. Thompson-Delmar. ISBN-13: 9780766842687

    Note: This text can really help as a crutch to get you up to speed with math applicable to soil work. Students like this one!

  3. Ellsworth, B., J.A. Higgins. 2012. English Simplified. 13th ed. Pearson Ed. Inc. ISBN-13: 978-0205110469

    Note: The instructors personal favorite. Often quicker to look here than Googling for the answer, and that is saying something!

  4. Rosenberg, J.L., L.M. Epstein, P.J. Krieger. 2013. Shaum’s Outline of College Chemistry. 10th ed. McGraw Hill, NY NY. ISBN-13: 978-007181082.

    Note: If you did not keep that college general chemistry book this is a good replacement and it does not take so much room on the bookshelf!


Laboratory Report

The laboratory portion of grade will be based on participation in all labs and field trips, field recordation/observation sheets, and a laboratory field notebook report.

All the students laboratory / field observation sheets and notes are to be included. The field sheet and note package may be collected intermittently as checkpoints. This compilation of the field notes are to be included when the report is due prior to the end of the course.

The original field notes are to be submitted as checkpoints. Do not turn in re-written field sheets at checkpoints. It will be acceptable to add correlation matrixes and sheets to the original sheets and the report near/at the end of the course. Any such additional sheets do not count toward page count of the report, nor do they replace the the original field sheets. I want to see the original field sheets.

The report section of the notebook (minimum of 10 pages, double spaced (not just 1 ½), 1 inch margin left and right, top, and bottom, but no greater than 33 pages) should include a discussion of all of the soil orders observed and incorporate student generated data and observations of soils on/in the laboratory/field.

The report discussion should expound and expand on (i) the environmental factors that affect soil-forming processes, (ii) on the relationships among the soils of the soil orders seen during the laboratory that are on the landscape, and (iii) on how these relationships are reflected in Soil Taxonomy. The discussions may -likely will- refer to the soil data collected in the field, and these data should be presented and summarized in figures or tables (placed at end of report and therefore do not contribute to the page count requirement). These tables and lists do not have to be sophisticated. They may be hand written, legibly and neatly.

You may refer to and reference other soil data. <All references and citations are to reflect the source.> Place all tables and figures discussed in the report at end of report after the bibliography.

For writing, table, figure, bibliography/reference and citation styles see Science

Assignment -- do this in the next 48 hours:

  1. Download and print (may want to save a digital copy also) Chapter 1 “Manuscript Preparation” from Science
  2. Read (power skim) Chapter 1 of Soil Genesis and Classification (Buol el al., 2011).
    Don't know what skimming is? Read this.

  3. Go to the Safety Training Site and complete the course, take the quiz and fill out the form at the end and REMEMBER to SUBMIT!

Laboratory Safety


All persons involved in laboratory activities including instructors, student assistants, and students are required to review procedures before activities commence. This includes all laboratory classes each new semester.

Laboratories include, but are not limited to, numerous chemicals, procedures, and operations, and as such they require extensive safety precautions. Laboratory safety involves chemical safety, fire safety, electrical safety, hazardous waste, and other safety issues. Follow the guidelines in this program for general laboratory safety, but refer to other programs for specific information.

You must complete this laboratory safety course to receive a grade greater than F for the course.

View the entire Tarleton State University Laboratory Safety Program.


This is a self directed assignment completed the first week classes are in session. This is an online safety course to be completed prior to coming to your first exercise.

  1. You need a computer with internet access
  2. A printer attached to print certification of course completion
  3. You must have your course, and laboratory section information at the ready. Other courses can be entered at the same time. Have a list of your courses and the CRN for each course handy to enter the information at the end of the Online Laboratory Safety Quiz.
  4. If the online safety course is not completed prior to the first laboratory exercise you will fail the course.
  5. Safety is not an option.
  6. Go to the Tarleton Risk Management and Safety web site
  7. Under the heading TRAINING, expand Online
  8. Choose the "Lab Safety" and complete the training course.
  9. At the end of the course is a quiz. Complete the quiz. Print the certificate at the end of the quiz and retain it throughout the class. If requested by the instructor or safety official you must produce the certificate that you have taken the "Lab Safety" course and quiz.
  10. When you attend the laboratory in person the instructor will do an "on-site" safety review.
  11. You might be asked to sign a roster that you have completed the "on-site" laboratory safety.

Grading strategy

Grading is only slightly competitive. Everyone may earn an A grade.

Attendance and Grading:

Beginning in Fall 2015, Tarleton will begin differentiating between a failed grade in a class because a student never attended (F0 grade), stopped attending at some point in the semester (FX grade), or because the student did not pass the course (F) but attended the entire semester. These grades will be noted on the official transcript. Stopping or never attending class can result in the student having to return aid monies received. For more information see the Tarleton Financial Aid website.

Academic Honesty:

Tarleton State University's core values are integrity, leadership, tradition, civility, excellence, and service. Central to these values is integrity, which is maintaining a high standard of personal and scholarly conduct. Academic integrity represents the choice to uphold ethical responsibility for one's learning within the academic community, regardless of audience or situation.

Students guilty of academic dishonesty are subject to disciplinary action. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating on an examination or other academic work, plagiarism, collusion, and the abuse of resource materials.

From the TSU catalog.

Sharing online test answers, or discussing and otherwise seeking help with online assessments is dishonest. The hint of impropriety in this manor is grounds for failure and/or dismissal.

Academic Civility Statement

Students are expected to interact with professors and peers in a respectful manner that enhances the learning environment. Professors may require a student who deviates from this expectation to leave the face-to-face (or virtual) classroom learning environment for that particular class session (and potentially subsequent class sessions) for a specific amount of time. In addition, the professor might consider the university disciplinary process (for Academic Affairs/Student Life) for egregious or continued disruptive behavior.

Academic Excellence Statement

Tarleton holds high expectations for students to assume responsibility for their own individual learning.  Students are also expected to achieve academic excellence by:


It is the policy of Tarleton State University to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other applicable laws. If you are a student with a disability seeking accommodations for this course, please contact the Center for Access and Academic Testing (CAAT), at 254.968.9400 or 9423. The office is located in Math 201. More information can be found at or in the University Catalog under Student Success and Multicultural Initiatives.

How to be successful

Reading the text

The textbook assigned is a primary source of knowledge for this course. There is no substitution for not reading the textbook.

Reading textbooks that introduce information that is new to the reader, a student in a college course, is a challenge. The task takes longer than reading popular media and as a consequence adequate time must be set asside. Hint: read in small time slices and frequently.

There are several strategies that can be employed to maximize retaining the concepts presented in the textbook. One strategy is:

  1. to first look over the text book sections for the upcoming lecture without reading it in detail: skimming.
  2. The next step is to re-read the relevant portion of the textbook after the information has been presented in a face-to-face lecture setting.
  3. The reinforcement that is offered to a student whom employs this tactic is real, with the maximum benefit coming from reading immediately after the face-to-face lecture.

    The impact diminishes as time (hours, days, and weeks) pass.

The contradiction to this method is that in most courses, the face-to-face lecture is unlikely to mirror the text. Rather, most instructors choose to employ the fact-to-face lecture to clarify concepts that are difficult for students to grasp from the textbook alone. This is efficient for students who are motivated and this allows instructors to link information presented in the textbook to other sources of text, audio, alternate visuals, or media.

Students often get behind and justify to themselves that they can read later to catch up. The student in these circumstances is challenged to recall the lecture when reading the text. Furthermore, the student must use the table of contents and index to link concepts presented in lecture. This method of learn later after they see what is stressed in the lecture increases the learning load on the student and the student may miss the simple information they should have been able to learn on their own via the assigned self directed readings and exercises.

Reading the textbook prior to lecture --even if skimming and accepting that an incomplete understanding at the first read-- offers the student an introduction, and some knowledge, to better link the lecture to concepts offered in the textbook. However, when reading the textbook prior to a face-to-face presentation the student must decide on the appropriate balance between reading for complete understanding and skimming for content introduction.

For this course visiting the textbook prior to lecture and returning the textbook after the material is presented in a face-to-face setting will yield the richest experience. Retention is increased when skimming and subsequent rereading is employed.

Additional reading and resources are available online and, most, are listed in the syllabus above. Specifically, the current copy of “The Keys to Soil Taxonomy” is available as a pdf and it is necessary that the student print this document. It is also suggested that a local digital copy saved to a local storage device be keep "at hand" for reference. Reading the The Keys to Soil Taxonomy (Soil Survey Staff, 2010) and the Soil Survey Manual (Soil Survey Division Staff, 1993), also available as a pdf online, together with the textbook, is a most valuable key to success.

It is not mandatory that the Soil Survey Manual be printed out in its entirety, but printing selected passages (Chapter 1 and 3) of the Soil Survey Manual may prove easier to "refer to" than a digital copy alone. Finally, referring to "Soil Taxonomy: A basic system of soil classification for making and interpreting soil surveys" (Soil Survey Staff, 1999) is helpful for some modules presented. Again, having a ‘local’ copy is important.

It is NOT an excuse to say that the reading could not be accomplished due to an interruption of internet access to these ‘on-line’ accessible documents. Save them to your local digital device (pad, phone, computer, Kindle, Nook, flash stick, etc) and have them handy.


The agenda will be delivered separately, in the face-to-face lecture. Suggested readings for up-coming lectures will be on this agenda to help you keep abreast of reading in preparation for lecture(s).

First day assignment for week one: Read Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 of Buol et al. (2011) [also I will refer to this ‘the textbook’]. For Chapter 1 and 2 of the textbook it is suggested that you power skim and then go back a read for content. Read The Soil Color section from Chapter 3 in Soil Survey Manual (Soil Survey Division Staff, 1993).

[1] Tarleton State University Risk Management & Safety. 2009. Tarleton Stat University Laboratory Safety Program. Accessed August 14, 2013 Online at Tarleton State Univeristy