The Ada Soil and Water Conservation District is seeking SARE Grant funding to further educate
Shawn Nield, State Soil Scientist of NRCS, and Josie Erskine, District Manager of Ada Soil & Water Conservation District, on qualitative food web analysis. The Idaho NRCS recently purchased six microscopes to be used in the field offices by district conservationists. At this point, the Idaho NRCS staff lacks the knowledge of how these microscopes are used to analyze the food web in the soil. Our goal is to seek training and education for these two individuals with the intent they train NRCS employees, Conservation District employees and producers all around the state. We have come to believe that the only true way to measure soil health is to be able to look inside of it and see what organisms are present, their quantities, and how they are functioning. We are requesting funding to have both Shawn and Josie receive training from Dr. Elaine Ingham and become certified soil life consultants through her online course and on-site workshops. After Sean and Josie receive the certification, they will hold qualitative soil analysis training sessions in the six regions of Idaho. The goal of the project is that each of the six regions of Idaho will have several conservationists that are trained on the microscopes, and can use these tools to promote soil health and address resource and conservation concerns.
The objective of the project is to build the understanding of soil and how it is functioning through
training and education. The advancement of soil science is incredible and NRCS employees need
to build their knowledge and have the necessary tools and training to help producers build soil and
understand how it functions.
1. Shawn Nield and Josie Erskine will receive training from Dr. Ingham. They will attend 45
online courses, a 2 day training workshop, and complete certification. This will take
approximately 6 months.
2. Shawn and Josie will set up multi-day initial workshops across the state of Idaho to train
NRCS employees, Conservation District employees and farmers and ranchers on how to
use the microscopes and how the knowledge can be applied in the field. This will begin
after certification. Idaho NRCS has six regional offices and all district conservationists will
be trained on the microscopes.
3. Shawn and Josie will have follow up training and workshops for employees but will also
hold workshops for producers and educators within the state. The knowledge learned will
be shared for years to come.
Josie Erskine and Shawn Nield registered for Elaine Ingham’s Life in the Soil Class. They are approximately 50% through the coursework. Each section of this program has multiple educational videos, along with tests on each subject.
Once their coursework is complete, three workshops will be set up in three divisions in Idaho with USDA-NRCS, Conservation District, and Extension employees to review how to use the microscopes to identify basic soil life, and review the soil health principles. The Ada Soil & Water Conservation District has already located partner organizations in three divisions that will host the workshops. Employees from all six divisions will be invited to attend. Peak soil activity is around June when the weather is warm, which would be an ideal time to host these workshops.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Teach outreach providers how to recognize good bacteria in the soil vs bad bacteria
Provide microscope training and soil health education to NRCS, Extension, and Conservation District staff.