Summer Soil Institute


Gain an integrated perspective on soil ecology and biogeochemistry with world-renowned faculty to address critical questions using up-to-date field and laboratory analytical techniques and models. 

Underneath our planet’s surface is a world of minerals, microorganisms, and organic matter collectively known as soil, which supports much of the life on Earth.  Hosted by the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory in CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources, the Summer Soil Institute provides an integrated perspective of the interactions among living organisms in soils, and the soil abiotic environment which drive the cycling of carbon and nutrients.

Participants will work with an interdisciplinary team of CSU soil experts, including M. Francesca Cotrufo, Steven Fonte, John Moore, Keith Paustian, Joe von Fisher and Matthew Wallenstein, to gain a strong understanding of soil ecology and current soil issues, such as regeneration of soil health and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from soils.

Participants in the two-week course gain hands-on experience in soil sampling, analytical techniques, and most importantly, a holistic understanding of soil systems formalized through model development. Interactive lectures and vibrant discussions are brought to life with field site visits to Colorado grassland and forest ecosystems where participants study and collect diverse soils. Experiences include soil core and gas efflux sampling, analyses of soil organic matter physical fractions, stable C and N isotope natural abundance, and microbial and fauna community traits, as well as using simulation models.

SSI is designed for a broad range of participants including graduate students, post-doctoral scientists, environmental professionals, faculty and K-12 teachers. The program was initiated through a USDA grant and has trained over a hundred students from across the globe to date.

“Soils are Earth’s fragile skin and enable food production, provide clean water, and are fundamental to human well-being,” said Matthew Wallenstein, SSI instructor and professor at CSU. “The Summer Soil Institute is working to advance education opportunities that can help scientists and educators better understand this incredible, underground ecosystem and how to sustainably manage it for human and environmental well-being.”



“I think SSI is a fantastic opportunity for someone early in their graduate career to gain a broad, multi-disciplinary perspective on soil science. The instructors are all top-notch and it’s great to see the range of questions people are interested in and what tools they use to answer those questions,” said Kabir Peay, Assistant Professor at Stanford University and past SSI participant.



“The Summer Soil Institute was a great experience, and most importantly, I walked away understanding the status of the field of soil science,” said Sheila Saia, a 2014 SSI participant and graduate student at Cornell University. “It was tremendously beneficial to learn from and talk to soil experts like those at CSU and other leading universities and gain hands-on experience in soil analysis techniques, which could be used to answer pressing scientific questions.”