EES Departmental Seminar: Dr. Brandon Heung

Dr. Brandon Heung
Associate Professor, Department of Plant, Food, and Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University

Title: From Chemometrics to Pedometrics: The Pathway Towards Modernizing Canada’s Soil Data Infrastructure

Abstract: Modelling and monitoring the state and dynamics of the soils and their properties are of critical importance in addressing the fiendish environmental challenges of our time. Yet, the existing spatial information needed to inform sustainable soil management practices is often limited or outdated. Over the past decade in Canada, digital soil mapping (DSM) techniques have become an emerging area of research within the soil science community. This subdiscipline of soil science leverages the advances in remote sensing and GIS to map soil variability using computationally-based approaches. Although this area of research is still emerging in Canada, I will argue that we are currently in a soil mapping renaissance, where our community has been producing map products that are more accurate and precise than what was previously available. This presentation will provide a theoretical overview of DSM; explore the novel applications of DSM techniques across Canada; and identifies the major challenges and opportunities that the Canadian soil mapping community must face.

Research vision and interests: My area of research is in pedometrics—a branch of soil science that aims to develop accurate and precise high resolution digital soil maps and predictive models that provide knowledge of soil variability over space and time. This discipline is the convergence of soil science, applied computing science, and remote sensing by leveraging the advances in geographical information systems, machine-learning, artificial intelligence, and Big Data analytics. At the Soil-Landscapes Analysis and Modelling Lab, my team focusses on the modeling and monitoring of soil properties and health, assessment of soil functions, and the transformation of soil data into knowledge to support decision making processes across diverse spatial scales. Spatial soil information and estimates of uncertainty are critical towards informing sustainable soil resource management practices and successfully implementing nature-based solutions to climate change. At the local-scale, I contribute data for precision agriculture, on-farm carbon sequestration programs and enhanced forest resource inventory activities. At the national-scale, my team supports the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by providing baseline soil data for informing national- and global climate change models, ensuring that our international commitments to monitor, verify, and report on the state of our soil resources are met.



In-person: Milligan Room, 8th Floor Biology-Earth Sciences Wing, Life Sciences Centre, Dalhousie University