Soil Health Workshops

In April-June 2020 ISCN hosted a series of three workshops on current challenges in soil health research. The workshops focused on questions relating to soil health baselines across space and time: what defines a healthy soil in its environmental context? What modelling approaches exist for predicting soil health in space and time—and what new modelling approaches are needed?  ISCN’s soil health coordinator (Eric Slessarev) will share insights from these workshops via a presentation and panel discussion at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting (Session:; Abstract:

Our recent paper with our network partners

Curious about the landscape of soil carbon databases? Read our review here.

Welcome to the new ISCN website!

ISCN at EGU 2019

If you are attending, check out the following presentation at the upcoming European Geophysical Union conference:

EGU2019-11975 | Orals | SSS5.2 

The role of soil research, databases, and soil indices in the drawdown of CO2
Jennifer W Harden, Ben Sulman, Gustaf Hugelius, Julie Loisel, Olga Vinduskova, Avni Malhotra, Katerina Georgiou, Anders Ahlstrom, and Robert B. Jackson
Mon, 08 Apr, 08:30–08:45   Room G1

Root trait and soil carbon workshop

Thirteen scientists got together at Oak Ridge National Lab’s Climate Change Science Institute to discuss the role of root carbon in long-term soil carbon pools. The goal of this workshop was to develop a conceptual framework to harmonize soil carbon and root trait data. This workshop, titled ‘Linking Belowground Traits and Soil Carbon Storage on a Global Scale’, was held on Jul 31 and Aug 1, 2018 in Oak Ridge, TN, USA.

Workshop attendees were Rose Abramoff, Paul Hanson, Jennifer Harden, Caitlin Hicks-Pries, Colleen Iversen, Robert Jackson, Avni Malhotra, Richard Norby, Debjani Sihi, Benjamin Sulman, Peter Thornton, Shershingh Tumber-Davila, and Anthony Walker with remote feedback from Gustaf Hugelius, Melanie Mayes, Luke McCormack, Verity Salmon, Zoey Werbin and Stan Wullschleger. The Climate Change Science Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory provided funding through an early-career grant to Avni Malhotra.

Watch this space for meeting products.

Photo source


Written by Jen Harden

I was inspired to combine my personal vacation to Chile with a trip that Julie Loisel had planned for peat sampling, so we met up in Patagonia near Puerto Natales in May 2018. Have a look at my interview with Julie:

This little bog was cored by Julie’s students Michael Bunsen, Eric Nutt, Julia Hillin and postdoctoral researcher at University Magellanes in Punta Arenas  Claudia Mansilla:

I asked Julie where this was headed in terms of data and our common visions for ISCN.

“Well after our ISCN data hackathon for C-Peat, we’re getting savvy enough to organize our data from the START in a way that’s really compatible with R, SOC-DRaHR, and with contributions into ISCN database versions. The point is to craft common data structures so we don’t have to go back and re-configure the raw information when we’re ready for comparisons and larger syntheses”

 Ya. Kind of like a snowball. Roll it over the new so it sticks to the old and gets bigger.

Summary of pre-AGU 2017 activities

ISCN all-hands meeting 2017

ISCN’s second annual all-hands meeting was held on Dec 10, 2017 in New Orleans. Attended by 33 scientists, the morning included a range of presentations (see agenda here). The ISCN leadership presented updates on recent publications, activities, and synergies. Action group members presented updates on soil respiration and AmeriFlux data, and carbon stabilization (focus on radiocarbon data). We also had a short presentation on Farm tools and FarmOS, and discussed possible collaborations with this group.

We also had four breakout discussions on the following topics:

  • The use of soil data in wetland mapping (Lead: Gustaf Hugelius): the goals of this group were to discuss i) whether soil data can be useful for wetland mapping, ii) is there a useful soil science definition of a wetland and iii) how soil data and the soil science community can contribute to global wetland mapping efforts?
  • Belowground traits and soil carbon (Lead: Avni Malhotra): the goals of this group were to evaluate current understanding and knowledge gaps on the link between belowground plant and fungal traits and soil carbon storage. The group also discussed data needed to better understand belowground trait-soil carbon linkages.
  • Radiocarbon data (Lead: Alison Hoyt): this group discussed the potential applications of soil radiocarbon data to ask questions regarding management and land use change influences on soil carbon storage. They also discussed the state of existing radiocarbon data and which data are missing from archives. The group reported on possible publications and the way forward for data aggregation.
  • Scales of data (Leads: Julie Loisel and Jennifer Harden): This group discussed data needs of the soil science community and how to address questions that are relevant to human-soil interactions. Discussions spanned from data necessary to create a soil management framework, to what soil processes relevant to management can be modeled and which datasets are needed for this modeling.


ISCN Data Hackathon

The all-hands meeting in the morning was followed by a Data Hackathon.  Led by Kathe Todd-Brown, this event brought together 30 scientists interested in using customized R scripts to ingest data into the ISCN database.

Some quick numbers for the hackathon:

1 – data ingestion script

2 – suggestions for changes to the infrastructure/features

3 – pull requests to

7 – people contributed ‘Issues’ that either identified data or make suggestions to the repository

8 – hackathon related forks of

14 – new data sets identified

23 – hackathon related forks of

The hackathon generated a lot of interest among our colleagues and we had productive discussions on future hackathons on targeted data needs. If you are interested in data updates please subscribe to:!forum/soc-drahr

Please post a comment below if you wish to get involved in any of the breakout group follow ups or would like to get involved in future data hackathons.



ISCN and ISRIC sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU)

After a vote from our scientific steering group (6 voted yes, 1 voted no), we have signed a MOU with ISRIC. Read the MOU here.

ISCN has new co-coordinators!

We thank Luke Nave for his hard work and service as ISCN coordinator for the last 7 years and welcome two new co-coordinators! Katherine Todd-Brown (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory) will focus on data aggregation and strategic vision, and Avni Malhotra (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) will focus on communications and strategic vision.

Avni is an ecosystem ecologist and biogeochemist. Her research is on ecosystem carbon cycling and its interaction with ecosystem structure and environmental factors.

Kathe is a computational biogeochemist with a focus on soil carbon dynamics across scales and passionate about reproducible open science. 


Agenda posted for pre-AGU ISCN All Hands Meeting

The agenda is now final for the pre-AGU ISCN meeting, to be held on Sunday, 11 December 2016 at the Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco! There is still time to complete the registration process for the meeting, so please follow this link if you plan to attend: <>



8:30  Welcome and Overview by Jennifer Harden (coffee and light breakfast available)

9:00 – 10:00  Action Groups 15 minutes each

Grazing Lands (Whendee Silver)

Atlas of Soil C Change (Peter Donovan)

Mechanisms for soil C stabilization (Corey Lawrence)

Soil C Flux: the need for a new data layer (Claire Phillips)

10:00-10:30 Coffee and discussion

10:30 – 12:00 Breakout groups to discuss Action Groups

12:00 – 12:30 Lunch

1: 00 – 1:30 Reporting of Morning Groups; Introduction to Afternoon Groups (Gustaf Hugelius)

1:30 – 3:30 PM  Breakout groups to discuss business issues with coffee

Database Development and Curation (Luke Nave; Ben Bond-Lamberty)

RCN on Soil-REDD (Julie Loisel; Johannes Lehman)

Development of Data Contribution Templates (Tessa Van der Voort; Joseph Blankinship)

3:30PM – 4:30 Reporting from afternoon breakout groups