Soil science is one of the least diverse sub-disciplines within the agricultural, earth, and natural sciences. Representation within soil science does not currently reflect demographic trends in the United States. We synthesize available data on the representation of historically marginalized groups in soil science in the United States and identify historical mechanisms contributing to these trends. We review education and employment information within academia and the federal government, land-grant university participation, and available Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) membership data to gain insight into the current state of representation within soil sciences and implications for the future of this discipline. Across all domains of diversity, historically marginalized groups are under-represented in soil science. We provide recommendations toward recognizing diversity within the field and improving and encouraging diversity within the SSSA, and suggested responses for both individuals and institutions toward improving diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Although the field of soil science is literally studying the land we live on, very rarely do we ask how this land came to be managed by the current people in power. In this paper we examine how America’s past influences the current system of private and public land management agencies, and what we must do within the field of soil science to make a science for all people.
As we tried to reiterate in the paper, this is the beginning of a conversation in soil science, not the end of one. For a continuation of these conversations, I recommend watching the 2021 Ecological Society of America virtual conference event. Since the original publication of this article, one of the co-authors (Dr. Asmeret Berhe) was nominated under the Biden administration to become the Director of the Department of Energy - Office of Science, and is expected to be confirmed by the US Senate.