Profiling a Soil Scientist: Siddhartho (Sidd) Paul

Welcome to the PRSSS’s new interview series called ‘Interview a Soil Scientist’! Our goal with this new series is to highlight some of the work of excellent researchers and professionals that are in the field of Soil Science and to get to know them a little better. With that in mind, we thought that there would be no one better to start with than one of our former PRSSS Presidents Dr. Siddhartho (Sidd) Paul, who recently finished his Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia.

Name: Dr. Siddhartho (Sidd) Paul

Research Interests:

  • Remote sensing and geospatial analysis
  • Digital soil mapping
  • Land use – land cover change
  • Climate change adaptation & mitigation

Congratulations on recently defending your Ph.D.! We are all so excited for you and know you will do a great job in your career. Could you share your next steps and any career aspirations?

Thank you very much. I am very excited to be part of this new interview series. Yeah, defending my Ph.D. was a huge step in my life. I am very fortunate to work with an amazing group of people here at the University of British Columbia during my Ph.D. For the next step, I am currently working as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Plant, Food, and Environmental Sciences, Dalhousie University. I am looking forward to applying my skills to another part of the country. I will contribute to a digital soil mapping and agricultural greenhouse gas emission project in Nova Scotia. Later this year, I will join the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) as a Postdoctoral Associate to develop national-scale digital hydrological maps and soil maps for spatial land use planning.

Do you have a favourite soil order? Why?

My favourite soil is Chernozem. I love Chernozem because of its thick organic matter layer and very distinct color – it is gorgeous. I fell in love with Chernozem during a field trip to the BC interior.

When was the first time you remember hearing about soil as something to study and why do you enjoy it?

I took a course in Physical Geology and Geomorphology during my first year in undergrad (I was a Geology major). This is when I was formally taught about soils. I was amazed to know how complex soil processes are and how important they are for environmental sustainability.

You are a former PRSSS president, how did you initially learn about the PRSSS? And what are some things you are proud of completing over your tenure?

Serving as the President of PRSSS was one of the most rewarding things during my graduate study at UBC. I first got to know about PRSSS in the Fall of 2015 when the PRSSS organized a special seminar on the importance of soil organic carbon sequestration to celebrate the International Year of Soil. It was an excellent event and made me super interested to become more involved with the organization.

During my tenure, I was very fortunate to get a great team of executives. Together,  we started some new programs, e.g. introducing a ‘member exclusive’ section on PRSSS’s website, resuming quarterly newsletters, attracting more sponsorships for our annual events, and most importantly, we organized donations to introduce two scholarships for the soil science students in BC (Les Lavkulich and Art Bomke Awards). I deeply thank my amazing executive team, donors, sponsors, and the PRSSS members for their support.

You are originally from Bangladesh; how do you think where you are from has helped shape you and your work?

Being born and raised in Bangladesh shaped me into the person I am today and what I am achieving as a researcher. My research on sustainable food production, climate change, and land use change directly relates to my experience from Bangladesh. Since my childhood, I learned from my surroundings the agonizing impacts of climate change, food insecurity, and improper land use management. Thus, when I decided to pursue a research career, I certainly knew what I wanted to do. I am also very thankful to the Canadian education and research facilities that provided me the opportunity to further my skills in the area of my research interests.

Do you have any tips for fieldwork or lab work? What do you usually do to prepare for either – any rituals/habits?

Fieldwork is one of the most enjoyable parts of my job. Preparing for the fieldwork well ahead of time is very important and making a checklist is super helpful. Another important suggestion is to record all the sampling locations using a GPS. It is critical for re-sampling from the same spot after several years and to track changes in different soil properties. Being a soil mapper, I truly value the soil data with GPS information since it enhances the utility of the dataset by many folds.

Do you have a recent publication/thesis to plug?

We just published a paper that focused on the spatiotemporal analysis of soil organic carbon across the Lower Fraser Valley (LINK). We detected soil organic carbon loss across 61% of the area from 1984 to 2018. The majority of the losses were attributed to areas that remained in the same type of agricultural production during the study period. The paper highlights the value of sustainable land use management in the agricultural landscapes for enhanced soil organic carbon sequestration and effective climate change mitigation and adaptation.

If you had to describe a ‘superpower’ for soil, what would it be?

The ‘superpower’ of soil is that it can grow food – the most basic need of humans.

To Learn more about Sidd’s work: GoogleScholar  Twitter  Personal Profile

We would like to thanks Sidd for participating in our very first ‘Interview a Soil Scientist’ series. If there is someone you would like to know more about, please let us know at prsssemail(at)gmail.com. Interview conducted by Hannah Friesen and Lewis Fausak.