Robert Horton

About the Distinguished Lecture Series

Instituted in 2009, ESPP’s Distinguished Lecture Series seeks to engage world class researchers, policy makers and practitioners with the MSU environmental research and education community. Distinguished Lecture speakers give a public lecture on an interdisciplinary topic and interact with MSU faculty and students. The Series is designed to provide an important interface between MSU and global leaders working on cutting-edge environmental issues. An important function of the Series is to facilitate interactions among MSU researchers from diverse fields to address issues that cross disciplinary boundaries.

In 2014, ESPP expanded its Distinguished Lecture Series to include events organized jointly with other units at MSU. ESPP is offering to partner with individual departments and units at MSU wherein ESPP co-sponsors a limited number of visits by distinguished scholars to deliver lectures on pressing environmental issues. For more information and criteria, please see this PDF.


Thursday Oct. 13, 2016
273 Giltner Hall, Michigan State University

Cosponsored by the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences


Dr. Robert Horton, Professor of Agronomy, Iowa State University

Dr. Horton is recognized nationally and internationally for his study of coupled heat and mass transfer in soil. His fundamental work on coupled heat and mass transfer in soil has greatly enhanced understanding of the following: climatology (the importance of surface energy partitioning); water quality (the impacts of soil water and chemical movement); agricultural production (the impact of the near surface environment on seed and root functions); ecosystem products and services (the impact of the near surface soil environment on microbial functions and gas exchange); and environmental investigations (thermal and mass flow methods for remediation of soil pollution). Dr. Horton leads a distinguished soil physics research and teaching program.

    Earth’s critical zone is the “heterogeneous, near surface environment in which complex interactions involving rock, soil, water, air, and living organisms regulate the natural habitat and determine the availability of life-sustaining resources.” Soils are a natural resource required for human life. Soils are as vital a resource for sustaining life on earth as are air and water. Soils are the growth medium for plants, which form the base of the terrestrial food chain now supporting over seven billion people. Often only a layer of a meter or less in thickness, soil covers the earth’s terrestrial surface. Soils, and thus human life, are threatened by accelerated erosion, degradation of structure and fertility, and pollution. Soils are composed of heterogeneous mixtures of solids, liquids, and gases, as well as a diverse community of organisms. Fundamental soil knowledge and practical soil management application skills are required for sustainable management of the soil resource. The interactions of fundamental biological, chemical, and physical processes in the presence of complex constituents with spatially and temporally varying organization causes soil science to be an inherently challenging discipline. Surface soils experience dynamic water content and temperature. This talk addresses aspects of the importance of soils and describes recent advances in measuring dynamic surface soil processes.

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