Wednesday 28th June


Alex McBratney & Jaap de Gruijter



Murray Lark


14:55 - 16:15 Pedometrics 25th anniversary Quiz and refreshments


16:15 - 16:55 Past, present and future of soil physical, chemical and biological process knowledge in pedometrics

Sabine Grunwald 



David Rossiter 


17:35 - 17:45 Closing





Speculations and climaxes
Delphic detonations
A tot of yesteryear
A tad of pedography
A parsec or two
On precociousness
On perspicacity
Scaling the Wageningense Berg
Blown goals and far misses
Dazzling (de)feats
Specular notions
Salted and peppered past
A gorgeous destiny
And perchance an air


Alex McBratney and Jaap de Gruijter
(Sydney and Wageningen)

 Professor Alex McBratney, University of Sydney

Professor Alex McBratney, University of Sydney

 Dr Jaap de Gruijter,  Wageningen University Research (retired)

Dr Jaap de Gruijter, Wageningen University Research (retired)

 Dr Murray Lark, British Geological Survey.

Dr Murray Lark, British Geological Survey.

Pedometrics as a science is concerned to understand the variation of the soil in space and time in quantitative terms. This science underpins the provision of meaningful predictions of soil properties at a location and support in space and time, which is required for management or policy decisions. In order to count as meaningful a prediction should have some non-arbitrary measure of its uncertainty. In both senses pedometrics is underpinned by mathematics, most commonly statistical sampling theory or the theory of random functions. Sometimes, when these approaches seem inadequate, pedometricians turn to computation with little or no mathematical underpinning. In my view this is a mistake, but it may be a fruitful one if we can identify the shortcomings of current methodology and then engage in informed speculation about what established or emerging mathematical apparatus might help us to make progress. That, after all, is how Beckett, Webster, Burrough and others developed pedometrics out of soil survey in the period from around 1965 to 1980. In the course of this review I shall look back, examining how ideas from stochastic geometry, information theory, spectral analysis and state-space modelling have contributed to pedometrics. I shall ask why we do things the way we (usually) do, and what problems this may cause (whether we spot them or not). I shall then make some suggestions about where new terrain for further pedometrical cultivation might be found in the mathematical landscape.


 Professor Sabine Grunwald, University of Florida.

Professor Sabine Grunwald, University of Florida.

‘Pedo’ and ‘metrics’ emphasize two perspectives, where the former highlights pedological knowledge and the latter the methodology and computational tools used to understand the past, current, future conditions and change of soils. This understanding of pedology and physico-, biological- and chemical transformations has been transposed into sophisticated maps and models. The main focus in this talk is on the “Why” and “How” soils develop, degrade, improve or are sustained in terms of their performance to meet needs (e.g., crop yield in context of food security), functions (e.g., soil carbon sequestration), values and benefits (e.g., water holding capacity), conditions (e.g., various soil properties) or overall perceptions (soil health, quality, and security). Since the invocation of pedometrics we have seen shifts in how physical, chemical, and biological process knowledge has been incorporated in soil models. An increased understanding of relationships between environmental factors and soil properties as well as biogeochemical cycles derived from empirical measurements (e.g. vadose zone) have afforded to improve our body of knowledge. Trends to couple these soil models explicitly with the human and life dimensions are underway to move from simpler model representations (e.g., incorporation of land use) to models that explicitly account for human actions, values, beliefs, decisions, and other organisms (e.g., microbial processes) allowing improved back- and forecasting (e.g., global climate change) and evaluation of scenarios (e.g., adaptation in soil management).  Improved soil-environmental data availability through remote and proximal sensing technologies combined with advancements in computational ability have afforded to build ever better soil factorial models rooted in empirical science.  Specialized process-based soil models to simulate soil change (quasi)mechanistically have been used in standalone mode or embedded in holistic Earth System Simulation Models and ecosystem models. Trends and issues related to how we transpose what we know about soils at a point (site) to spatial and temporal model scales and associated uncertainties will be addressed. I will also discuss the mainstream paradigms in pedometrics rooted in empiricism and reductionism (i.e., deduct data and process-knowledge at finer and finer scales and build more detailed and complex models) in light of the needs to synthesize soil knowledge to resolve the global grand challenges and crises of our time. 

 Dr David Rossiter, ISRIC-World Soil Information; Cornell University; Nanjing Normal University.

Dr David Rossiter, ISRIC-World Soil Information; Cornell University; Nanjing Normal University.

Although pedometric approaches were taken as early as 1911 (Mercer & Hall, Student) and 1937 (Youden & Melich), the post-WWII development of information technology radically transformed the possibilities for pedometrics. The first development is of course the electronic digital computer. Early examples where this made pedometric techniques viable are numerical taxonomy of soils in the early 1960's  and geostatistics from the mid 1970's. By the time of the first Pedometrics conference in 1992 sufficient computing power was available for stochastic simulation and complex geostatistical procedures such as cokriging and disjunctive kriging. In the intervening 25 years computing power has grown to almost magical proportions, allowing any individual scientist to carry out the most complex procedures. The second development is the growth of networking towards the internet. This has fostered much easier collaboration among dispersed pedometricians, rapid communication with journals, collaborative programming and publication, and easy access to resources. This is the third development: the tremendous growth in on-line storage, especially of open data, including GIS coverages and remotely-sensed images, and computer programs. This has allowed pedometricians working on geographic problems to integrate sources from multiple discplines, most notably in digital soil mapping using a wide variety of covariates related to soil genesis. It has also allowed the development of an open-source movement of collaborative development of computer programs useful for pedometrics. A fourth development is the explosive growth of sensors to provide data for pedometrics, including spectroscopy, electromagnetic induction, gamma-ray detectors etc., connected to each other and to central data stores. A fifth development is wireless technology, including mobile computing and telephony, again greatly facilitating rapid and extensive data collection -- in pedometrics, the more dense the data, the greater the analytical possibilities and the lower the uncertainty. A final development is the Global Positioning System, making accurate georeference of field data a routine part of data collection, and thereby assuring the highest possible accuracy in maps made by predictive pedometric methods.