William Paterson Students Study Fire-Soil Relationships In Section 3

Posted on September 18, 2010

Following a prescribed fire at Ty Parker’s farm in April 2009, students from William Paterson University began a year long study of the fire-effected soil.  Under the leadership of Dr. Jennifer “Joe Dirt” Callanan, Department of Environmental Science students Chad Reinertsen, David Lugo, Christina Auger, and Monica Tierno studied the progressive weathering of soil clay minerals. 

They collected soil samples from underneath and next to a burned brush-pile at intervals 1, 3, 6, and 12 months following the fire.  In the laboratory, they analyzed the texture and clay mineralogy of the soil. 

The research team has recently finished analysis of the 1 and 3 month post-fire soil samples.  They suggest that the ash bed left from the burnt brush pile is the primary cause of chlorite clay weathering in the soil.  They hypothesize that as rain water percolates through the ash bed, the water chemistry changes.  This chemically altered water pools at a restrictive layer of the soil below a depth of 1 foot.  Chlorite at this depth was found to be reduced in quantity.

In March, 2010, they presented the results of their study at the Geological Society of America Northeastern Section meeting in Baltimore, MD.  They have recently submitted a manuscript of the study to a national, peer-reviewed journal for publication.  Dr. Joe Dirt Callanan and Chad Reinertsen will continue investigation of the 6 and 12 month post-fire soil.  She will also be undertaking a laboratory experiment to model the results of the field study with 2 additional undergraduate students, William Frazier and Kimberly Snyder, in the Dept. of Environmental Science at William Paterson University.