Using Soil Survey Information for Geomorphic Analysis

Holly Dolliver, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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In this activity students will use information from a county-level soil survey to learn about the geomorphology of an area.

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Geomorphology or Soil Pedology

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Basic understanding of soil development, soil descriptions, and soil properties.

How the activity is situated in the course

Stand-alone exercise


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Utilize a county-level soil survey to find soil property information

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Interpret geomorphic landforms and processes from soil properties

Other skills goals for this activity

Construct a cross-section/concept sketch

Description and Teaching Materials

Instructor Notes (Acrobat (PDF) 179kB Apr30 13)
Assignment Description (Example 1) (Acrobat (PDF) 222kB Apr30 13)
Assignment Description (Example 2) (Acrobat (PDF) 432kB Apr30 13)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Since soil maps are available for much of the United States, it would be very easy to develop something for any given area/region. I have especially found it beneficial to incorporate activities where students do mapping, cross-sections, and timelines/reconstructions. To get started, I would recommend using a paper copy of the soil survey and consult the "General Soil Map", which is usually located in the middle of the book. This map is constructed at a scale of 1:250,000 and can be used to acquaint yourself with the basic soil geomorphology of the county.


Accuracy and completeness of map and/or cross-section

References and Resources

Brevik, E.C. and Fenton, T.E., 1999, Improved mapping of the Lake Agassiz Herman strandline by integrating geological and soil maps, J. Paleolimonology, v. 22, 253-257.
Miller, B.A., Burras, C.L., and Cumpton, W.G., 2008, Using soil surveys to map Quaternary parent materials and landforms across the Des Moines Lobe of Iowa and Minnesota. Soil Survey Horizons, v. 49, 91-95.
Oehlke, B.M., and Dolliver, H.A.S., 2011, Quaternary glacial mapping in western Wisconsin using soil survey information, J. Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education, v. 40, 73-77.