Soil Chemist

I teach and perform research on environmental issues and improving soil for crop growth.

Julie Howe
Assistant Professor
Auburn University

I consider myself a: Soil Scientist

My Highest Degree: Doctorate

I received my degree(s) in: Texas A&M University BS Texas A&M University MS University of Wisconsin-Madison PhD

Length of Career: I have been a soil scientist for about 10 years.

What was your career path to your current position?
In college, I was interested in environmental issues. I found it very interesting that plants could be used to clean up or detoxify soil, so I pursued graduate degrees that allowed me to study environmental issues more in depth.

What projects are you working on now? What interesting projects have you worked on/led in the past?
Currently, I am working on a project to evaluate the effect of including grasses in a traditional peanut-cotton rotation on soil physical and chemical properties. In addition, we are investigating carbon storage and greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) release in these systems. My other research involves improving the micronutrients in soil for peanut and soybean production. One project in the past that I particularly enjoyed was looking at different forms of chromium taken up by plants. We found that the plant had different strategies to deal with the toxic chromium depending on what form of chromium was supplied to the plant.

What do you find most interesting about your work (either currently or a story of a past experience)?
To me, it is odd that people are so unaware of how soil is so necessary everyone’s life. It is greatly underappreciated. I like to help students gain an appreciation for soil.

What do you like best about your job and/or what do you like best about being in your profession?
I like the variety of my job. I have the opportunity to work with soil, plants, and even just chemicals. I can work in the field and in the lab. I get to meet interesting people and learn about little known facts. Best of all, I like to solve problems that make a tiny part of the world better or at least better understood.

What’s the one thing you would change about your job/profession that would make it better?
It would be nice to have more time and more money to improve and add to the projects that I do.

What would you say to someone thinking about entering the profession? What advice would you give for succeeding in this field?
If you are interested in becoming a soil scientist, it is very handy to know how to write and speak well. This is something often overlooked by students seeking a career in science or math. If you cannot convey what you discover to someone else, what is the point?

What do you like doing in your free time?
I have many hobbies, I like to walk and train my dog, read, canoe/kayak, and brew adult beverages.

If you have more questions about my career, feel free to contact me at:

Julie Howe
Associate Professor
Auburn University
Auburn, AL
Auburn University