On March 21, the University Academic Planning Council (UAPC) approved the new name “Department of Soil and Environmental Sciences” for the CALS department currently known as Soil Science. The department is also offering a new undergraduate Certificate in Environmental Soil Science beginning this fall and is suspending its soil science undergraduate major in Spring 2025.

This is the third name change since the founding of the Department of Agricultural Physics in 1889. In the 1960s, the initial focus of the department towards agriculture was broadened to include environmental aspects, and since the 2000s, the scope has grown further with research on ecosystem processes and services, life cycle analysis, environmental remediation and more. The department is also home to the popular and growing undergraduate environmental sciences major.

“Soil science underpins most of the environmental challenges facing the world today,” says Doug Soldat, professor and chair of the department. “Our new departmental name is not merely symbolic but indicative of our expanded commitment to understanding and addressing the broader environmental challenges that intersect with soil science.”

The new name more accurately reflects the enhanced research, teaching and outreach efforts and better acknowledges the department’s broadening scope and the 170+ students in its undergraduate and graduate programs. The name change will be effective beginning with the Summer 2024 term.

The department is also offering a new Certificate in Environmental Soil Science. The program is a 16-credit credential that will focus on the science and environmental implications of soil. The certificate is available to undergraduate students in all UW-Madison schools and colleges and will be open for enrollment beginning in the Fall 2024 term.

“This certificate offers coursework that mirrors the core courses of the soil science major and can be added to complement any existing major seamlessly,” says Soldat. “We’ve tailored this program to be accessible to students across all schools and colleges, emphasizing our belief that knowledge of soil science is vital for a variety of academic and career paths. We will be able to reach more students this way than through our soil science major.”

After the launch of the new certificate offering, the department will be suspending admissions to the soil science undergraduate major, which has had low enrollment for several years. While enrollment in the soil science major has been low, enrollment in the CALS environmental sciences major – also managed by the department – has been growing since its creation in 2011. That major is a joint effort with the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences in the College of Letters and Sciences.

The 11 students currently enrolled in the soil science major will continue to be supported in their major and be able to complete all necessary coursework. Undergraduates can declare the major through the Spring 2025 term, and students declared in the major can complete the program through the Summer 2029 term. Going forward, students with an interest in soil science will be directed to the new certificate and the environmental sciences major, or related majors depending on their interest.

The department continues to provide education in soil science to students across UW-Madison regardless of major.  The department’s course offerings remain a core element of numerous existing and planned majors, and all soil science courses will continue to be offered. The department will also continue to oversee the soil science graduate program (M.S. and Ph.D.) and a professional master’s degree program in Environmental Remediation and Management.

For more information about these changes, visit the Lumen site (NetID required). The departmental name change can be found in “Structure Proposals,” while the two other changes will be in “Program Proposals.” To find the relevant information, type “*soil*” (including asterisks) into the search bar.