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WHAT LIES BENEATH: Soil Mapping Process Long Way From Over

Mike Lynch

In an age of remote sensing and digital mapping you might think we have all the maps we'll ever need.  Mike Lynch says think again.

The “crumbly” stuff that Kentucky Geological Survey mappers William Andrews and Antonia Hansen are talking about is a layer of soil they were exploring at the Jefferson / Bullitt County line. They are working on new soil maps for the area.  Andrews, who heads the Geologic Mapping Section of the state survey, says mapping of Kentucky’s underlying bedrock geology was completed in the 1970’s.

The soil mapping focuses on thicker deposits on slopes and valleys because it tells the mappers more about useful resources like water or clays, and helps identify potential hazards for community planners, developers, farmers, and families.

Hansen’s project area is one geologic “quadrangle” of about 35 square miles. She’s looking for locations where the original, un-disturbed soils can be found. But the terrain of her project area ranges from the hilly Knobs region of Kentucky to rich flat farmland… making it challenging work.

So Hansen and Andrews drive to lots of locations around the quadrangle, and get out to walk to plenty of places to see the landscape close up and look for soil samples.

Human development of the landscape adds to the challenge of finding (un-disturbed / pristine) soils... As Hansen puts it… “Everybody digs everything up,” whether they’re building houses, industrial sites, golf courses, or roads.

The mapping depends on limited federal funding which won’t last forever… So, with the help of a citizen advisory panel, KGS is prioritizing the important places to map the soils… And determine what is original…and what’s not.

Credit Mike Lynch
Andrews and Hansen taking soil samples