David Weindorf, a professor in Texas Tech’s department of Plant and Soil Science, was named a fellow of the Soil Science Society of America.
The fellowship is the highest honor the SSSA can bestow.
Weindorf has studied soil science for most of his life, including while getting his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees at Tech. He said soil science itself is an underdog discipline but needs to be studied.
“When I was in middle school, my school didn’t have FFA, or anything agricultural to join,”
Weindorf said. “I had to go to another school district in order to join FFA, because I really wanted to study agriculture. It’s a career we should really revere.”
Weindorf has been a member of the SSSA for 23 years, serving on panels and making contributions to the field of soil science. He is currently in Romania conducting research with Tech and local Romanian universities, translating the pedology of their soil classifications to the American system.
“In the U.S., we have one system that classifies every type of soil found there,” Weindorf said. “In Romania and the rest of Europe, each country has its own system of classification. What we’re looking at is how to classify the heavy metals found in the soil, the environmental pollution, and how to classify that into one system everyone can use.”
On top of his research, Weindorf has also dabbled in documentary work. “Between Earth and Sky: Climate Change on the Last Frontier,” was produced by KTTZ-TV and TTU Public Media, in partnership with the SSSA and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The film documents the effects of global warming in Alaska, and serves as a window to the struggles of the Alaskan people as the permafrost melts under their feet.
Weindorf served as an executive producer, and said it was hard to travel to locations due to the melting ice and snow.
“It was difficult to line up interviews and some of the locations were almost impossible to get to at some points,” Weindorf said. “We had to charter helicopters and small planes to go to the islands, and we were at the mercy of the weather. If we ran out of AA batteries, we couldn’t just head down the road to get more. We had to have all bases covered.”
The documentary has been screened at the Colorado Environmental Film Festival, the Environmental Film Festival in Washington D.C., and will be shown at the Soil Science Society of America’s National Meeting in Tampa in October, where professor Weindorf will be ceremonially inducted as a fellow.
As Weindorf continues his studies and film work, he said he hopes he will be able to continue to tell the story that is buried in the soils of the world.
“One of the things I always tell my students is to touch the land lightly,” he said. “We don’t give the land the appreciation it needs, and often times in society we ignore what the land does for us. We need to till the land less, to keep it alive for future generations. So, touch the land lightly.”