3rd Annual Urban Soils Symposium

Soils & Remediation

December 6-7, 2018   |   9 am – 6 pm

New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) Auditorium on Broadway

1871 Broadway, New York, NY 10023 – Between West 61st and West 62nd

Soils are the common denominator uniting all disciplines, backgrounds, and sectors. We all need soils.

Our cities are built on soils. They are the axis of our urban universe. They scrub our air, filter our water, manage flood, buffer our coasts, support vegetation, food, animals, infrastructure, and...us.

But what happens when we degrade them and the systems they support, devastate them, destroy them, contaminate them..how do they function then? How do urban soils behave? What processes are going on in urban soils? Urban soils, like people, are diverse and complex. We need to learn from them and know them better to understand how to manage them, reverse the damage we’ve caused, and work with them for a better future.​

So let’s get together, because it takes all of us, to collaborate, to understand what we know, what we don’t know, and what we need to do as we strive for a better city and world for our future, and the future of generations to come.

The symposium is the platform for the sciences and other disciplines to communicate and collaborate. It is an integrated and interactive "workshop"- stitching people and their efforts and various programs together to nurture and enable a more holistic approach to solve our human and environmental problems, starting with soils!The speakers will spark the conversation and each participant will be involved in the roundtable discussion. Please come and be part of the conversation!

Who should attend:Community groups, gardeners, farmers, artists, activists, academia, practitioners, industry, government folk/agencies,....everyone interested in urban soils.

The symposium is just the beginning; the start of the conversation and deliberations of the theme of urban soils & remediation, restoration, resilience, rehabilitation, recovery, and regeneration. There are so many unknowns, and we believe we need at least a year to ask questions and discover answers. Therefore, we decided to continue the symposium through panels / roundtables / workshops and lecture series that will take place once a month throughout 2019 on specific topics or problems.  Stay tuned, we will post the workshop themes on our website and discuss them at the symposium. If you have questions or ideas, please let us know!

USI Director

Tatiana Morin, USI Director

It was a little scary putting together the symposium for the 3rd time. Can we do it again? The mission of these symposia has been to bring people together, to be a platform for data, info, questions, needs exchange. To bring diverse backgrounds and disciplines into the same room, and offer time for sharing, discussing, questioning. To fuel hope and togetherness. To bring science to the ground, to challenge it with the needs of the community, to open new avenues and ways to solve problems and implement solutions. To make science reachable to wide audiences. To remind us of why we need to work together, to strive and build a better today, tomorrow, and future. To learn from our mistakes, and to see things in a new light. To explore, ask simple and fundamental questions, and to take those further. To remember to ask how and why. To go from problem to solution, from idea to implementation.

Our goal, was not to climax at the symposium. The goal was to spark and inspire the beginning of long-term friendships and collaborations, so that we can take what we have learned from each other at the symposium, from near and wide, and realize what we can do together in the next steps to understand what the soils are teaching us, to understand what it is to remediate our wrongs (contamination, destroyed soils, degraded ecosystems), and that to create and advance, we don’t have to sacrifice the very resources that sustain us. That in the name of convenience, we should not forget our roots! That we are not here to battle nature, but to live by it. In harmony, with each other and the environment, we can live better-even in this modern world.

We come together at the symposium, from different backgrounds, different disciplines, different sectors, because soils are our common denominator. They unite us all, and “ground” us, they give us our common language so that we can work together, because they simply remind us what we are striving for-they sustain life. And we are life.

The speakers were from various backgrounds and disciplines. Their role was to spark curiosity, inspire discussions and actions towards solution. Everyone at the symposium was on an equal plane. We were all learning from each other. The arena was local, national, and international, with folks sharing stories, ideas, and discoveries from NYC, NYS, Connecticut, Spain, France, Italy, Korea, Germany, Russia, California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio.. (the list goes on). This year, we focused strongly on the hour discussions that followed each speaker session.

We were adventurous to theme the symposium with such a large theme: Urban soils & remediation, restoration, rehabilitation, regeneration, resilience, renew, recover, recycle, re-learn, re-evaluate, respect. But we felt we could not narrow it and simplify it into categories. Simply put, we are a part of the earth. We have a place on this earth, we are not always discordant with it. But we have made mistakes in the past, and we can prevent those mistakes in the future, if we learn from them, and go back to the fundamentals and figure out what it is we don’t know and what nature; soils can teach us. So at the symposium, we opened the window to some discussions in this theme, and we will continue to do so through workshops on more topics throughout 2019. So please join us.

In the symposium:

We learned about the value of understanding what soils are, how they develop, how we as humans can map them to understand them and use this information as the basis for our decisions in using them as our resource.

We explored how we treat soils as a commodity, we import them, export them, buy them, dump them, excavate them, dispose of them, deliver them. We have soils, but we need soils. Where? How? Why? Is this sensible? What can we do better?

We covered a bit about the history of soil science. Discussed the fundamental need for soils, understanding them, putting them into the urban context-what does that mean?what does this means for us humans and our cities, for climate change? For our everyday lives and the future? For sustainability?

We heard this from our local experiences, national, and international.

We covered how soils themselves are constantly working towards a balance, recovering from interruption, or degradation, what parameters make them do what they do and how they do it. We saw that science has witnessed soil recovery, and tried to understand how it recovers. How can we understand this and apply it to our situations in the city, to recover from abused or contaminated soils? How we can create systems that improve air and water quality? Our food systems, and our primitive survival needs of growing our own food can be compromised or aborted by our own stigmas, infrastructure, and by our major contamination, but there is a way to improve and do things differently.

We discussed and shared how the spiritual connection to soils and nature and ecosystems, and the human benefits from being exposed, stewarding, growing food, and foraging in the environment and respecting the resources that we use and rely on is equally if not fundamentally important to our existence and should be what drives science. We learned that it is possible to mine heavy metals from contaminated soils, that it is possible to stabilize contaminants to return ecosystems and grow food.

We ventured to understand how we can work with soils to implement and improve green infrastructure in human infrastructure developments and employ nature to infiltrate water, reduce stormwater runoff and thus combined sewer overflows. How we can use soils and plant functions and plant systems to reduce temperature fluctuations caused by hardscapes. That we have soils in water systems that support aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and that these are a vital resources that also have been and can be damaged by us when we don’t take them into consideration. We witnessed how art can help communicate and reach out to wider audiences when sharing the value and need for scientific research and discoveries. How art can probe and venture, dare to ask questions that have not been asked. We explored how we can change landscapes and mentalities to embrace holistic systems, where natures ecosystem and human-made systems can interact-raising spirit and community.

We talked about the value of exposing kids to the environment and holistic lifestyles, where it is natural to be part of the environment even in cities.

We talked about the value and critical importance of looking into the microbial world in both the soils and our guts to understand the roles and critical work that organisms do as the immune system of our earth and us, and that we, as humans, have much in common with the biosphere of the soils- that the microbes are helping us remediate the soils and it is up to us to figure out how.

We launched the Art Extension Service to the USI, that initiated Project:Soils-a platform for linking science and art and other disciplines together, to engage wider audiences, to solicit the needs, to probe and ask questions, and diversify and enrich the goals and purposes of science, and projects, of discovery, and solutions. A strong disconnect exists between soil scientists and the general public with regard to understanding the importance of soil. Project: Soils aims to connect some dots and have fun doing it.

Art can be a universal language – one that can be understood broadly and regardless of one’s educational or socio-economic background. Art speaks to people in ways that academic publications and scientific conferences cannot.

It was challenging and a lot of fun putting together the symposium. It takes a dedicated team, where no task is too big or small. It takes passion, and a desire to do it for the people. To give the community what it wants and needs. Besides the dedicated team members of the USI, we had energetic and passionate volunteers who came from all over, to help make the symposium happen. We had a generous donation from Stonyfield Farms, who served us organic yogurt for breakfast. Stonyfield Farms is dedicated to the idea that healthy food means healthier people, healthier business, and a healthier planet, and they feed this change! We were so happy that they helped us make that change at the symposium!

Soil Connect sponsored our symposium, helping make it a success. They provide a platform for soil exchange-helping ‘recycle’ our vital resource and emphasize the value of it. It empowers the users to manage the exchange-putting the needs and solutions into the hands of the generators and users. No middle man!

Le pain quotidien who support sustainable food systems, and honour traditions of good quality food catered the lunch.

RUDN University, our long term partner, and dear friends, came from Moscow, and helped put the symposium together. Their partnerships, good spirits, and warm friendships help bring everyone together and nurture collaborations, projects, and friendships.

NYIT, our new partner, brought in the world of architecture and resilient designs into the discussions. They hosted the symposium this year and made it a huge success.

Where food and drink is good, spirits are high. With plenty of time for discussions, we also ate together, and celebrated together, talked over coffee and tea. This is what added to the spirit of the symposium-good food, good atmosphere, mingling, making friends, and building the future together. Thank you to all who participated, supported from afar, and made the event yours!

Thank you to the USI team, the volunteers, our partners, RUDN and NYIT, our sponsors, and all of our participants and friends!

We like to keep the ticket prices low to try make it possible for everyone who is interested to attend. If we could, we would do it for free. But, so far, we haven’t even cut even putting this symposia together, but we’re sure that with more help and support, we will be able to offer more, and not go into deficit:). Thank you for all your kind help and support. We did better this year than previously! You made it happen!!

Special thanks to all our participants!

New Jersey State Soil Scientist, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Dr. Richard K. Shaw, USI Co-Founder; New Jersey State Soil Scientist, NRCS

NRCS was well represented at the New York City Urban Soils Institute’s 3rd Annual Urban Soils Symposium, December 6 and 7, at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) Auditorium on Broadway in Midtown Manhattan. Co-hosted by the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN) and NYIT, the symposium brought together nearly 100 participants representing diverse entities, all with a common interest in the soil. Academics, educators and extension agents, land managers, federal, state and municipal agency employees, gardeners, composters, landscape architects, or, as Maryland artist extraordinaire Margaret Boozer put it: “urban farmers, activists, arborists, cultural anthropologists, artists, professors, entomologists, and about every other category of soil-tinged profession you could think of.” The group brought a local to international perspective to the dialogue on this year’s theme of Soil Remediation, Restoration, Rehabilitation, Resilience and Respect.

NRCS participation included NJ/NY State Soil Scientist Richard K Shaw, who, along with Paul Mankiewicz of the Gaia Institute, spoke of the need for fundamental research in urban soils and the importance of communication between researchers and practitioners. Rich also gave an overview of urban soil science history with an emphasis on NRCS activities and related soils information in NYC, which had set the foundation for establishment of the USI. NRCS-NY Resource Soil Scientist (and NYC native) Olga Vargas addressed the need to consider the soil factor in restoration efforts; 12-TOL Leader Donald Parizek reported on the recent fieldwork and lab sampling for the Jamaica Bay Subaqueous Soil Survey, including some incredible buried terrestrial soils in the northeast section of the Bay; SSR Director Luis Hernandez, who had served as the agency’s first soil survey project leader in NYC, provided an update on activities in Region 12. Pam Thomas gave an informative presentation on digital soil survey and soil systems, generating a comment from our RUDN colleagues that NRCS was far ahead of Russian efforts in this respect. Maxine Levin, retired National Leader for Soil Survey Interpretations discussed some good soil carbon information resources; and Liz Camp, NRCS-NY District Conservationist from Long Island took advantage of the networking opportunity.

Other highlights included Former Chair of the IUSS urban soils working group (SUITMA) Jean Louis Morel from the University of Lorraine in France discussing several impressive restoration case studies; RUDN professor Slava Vasenev presenting some eye-opening figures on soil carbon in urban soils; CUNY postdoc and USI scientist Maha Deeb’s research findings on aggregation in green infrastructure soils; RUDN PhD Ramilla Hajiaghaeva on soil investigations in the Chernobyl exclusion zone; CUNY PhD candidate and USI scientist Anna Paltseva on trace metal analyses in a high profile community garden; Jason Sinopoli from the Newtown Creek Alliance on promoting “microhospitality” in remediation efforts; artist Mary Mattingly on the floating community garden “Swale;” Gil Lopez describing the Queens urban farm collective Smiling Hogshead Ranch; and Maryland artist Margaret Boozer announcing the formation of an artist to scientist networking opportunity, part of the USI Art Extension Service.

This year’s symposium featured hour long Q & A / discussions after each group of related presentations, generating some good interaction and ideas for future direction. The idea is to continue with panels/roundtables/workshops and a lecture series throughout 2019 on selected topics and/or problems. USI Director and Chair of the Symposium Organizing Committee Tatiana Morin, assisted by NYCSWCD Executive Director Shino Tanikawa and USI members George Lozefski, Igor Bronz, and Meg Browne, once again did a stellar job in assembling a multidisciplinary cast in an exceptional venue, setting the stage for some productive conversation and innovative ideas, establishing NYC as the epicenter of the urban soil science world, at least for two days.

Laboratory and Technical Services Coordinator

Igor Bronz, Laboratory and Operations Coordinator

What makes a conference 'good'? If someone asks “why in the world does anybody need this conference?” and the answer is: “to lecture people about a particular topic”, the conference is unnecessary because all the knowledge could be obtained more effectively online at your own leisure with fewer distractions. If the answer is “to network”, the conference is only useful for young scientists/practitioners who would like to meet more well-known individuals in person and would rather not cold call on LinkedIn. However, if the answer is “to open new avenues of conversation and bring previously isolated groups together”, the conference is useful for everyone involved and you get the 3rd Annual Urban Soils Symposium.

The Urban Soils Symposium accomplished a lot: it brought together scientists, artists, public officials, community leaders, educators and amateur gardeners together in a way that few other conferences can. Each of these individual groups has their own concerns and areas of focus, and rarely do they get the opportunity to meaningfully interact with another group, let alone all of them in one place. Everyone would agree that with regard to the environment, we are all playing on the same team, so it only makes sense to work together – but this idea rarely finds its way into practice.

Did we accomplish our goal of creating a good conference? More importantly, will the conference stay with people weeks and months after its over and will people actually utilize the connections they’ve made, or will the attendees return to their usual business as soon as they get home? I strongly believe that the former is true. The topics covered in the 3rd Annual Urban Soils Symposium were general and diverse in their scope, yet focused and substantive in their detail. This allowed the attendees to get an idea of where a large portion of the field of soil and environmental science stands, rather than just a narrow section of it and as such, it has already opened new avenues of conversation.

This is what made the 3rd Annual Urban Soil Symposium so innovative and it is key to remember that in such a dynamic environment, innovation is the most important quality that any event can have. The logistical elements of the conference went very well, but my impression was that the attendees found the conference to be extremely inspiring and informative which I find far more exciting. We’ve made permanent connections not just for the USI, but for every organization represented. By breaking the mold of what most people feel that a typical conference should be, we took many risks and, in our case, the risks paid dividends.

As with all things, there is lots of room for improvement. We could have contacted the sponsors earlier, had more professional documents available for them to consider, had a better venue, encountered fewer issues with scheduling, but all of these are small issues compared to the overall result, which I believe was phenomenal. There was a huge potential for failure and embarrassment, but we avoided that and presented a product that everyone enjoyed immensely. That’s what makes the USI unique: our ability to work quickly and effectively, and to take risks that larger organizations cannot. As we expand and evolve as an organization, this may change somewhat, but I think we have really made a name for ourselves with the 3rd Annual Urban Soils Symposium.

A big thank you to the entire USI coalition for making this happen. Let’s do it again in a few months.


Margaret Boozer, Soil Artist, Director of Project: Soils, the Artist Extension Service of USI

Amazing symposium! so much great information, fascinating people and important cross pollination! USI’s Art Extension Service got to launch our new project, Projectsoils.org ...check it out!

Claire and I just wanted to send a brief update after the 3rd Urban Soils Symposium…basically, it was amazing! There were maybe 150-200 folks there... scientists, urban farmers, activists, arborists, cultural anthropologists, artists, professors, entomologists, and about every other category of soil-tinged profession you could think of.

The rollout of Project: Soils was a huge hit. Folks there were super excited about all of you, the variety of work you represent, and your general bad-assness. : ) Take a look at the website, if you haven’t yet. https://projectsoils.org/ The artist page can show you who your colleagues are so far. Raina Martens and Simone Johnson were both able to attend the conference and help us present the project in person…so great!

Research Coordinator

Anna Paltseva, Research Coordinator

I found the symposium as charming as usual, and perhaps more engaging since the venue is small and we all have to squeeze to interact. I wish it was three days long as it is never enough to talk with everyone. It is friendly environment makes people to stay and engage with the speakers, participants, organizers, and soils for hours. I especially appreciated the foreign visitors. Their participation highlights the growing USI branding. And soon we will be known worldwide.

And next year we should broadcast it even bigger and earlier. We should definitely reach out to sponsors at least 6 months in advance. And I hope we will have a field tour.

Fundraising Coordinator

Meg Browne, Funding and Outreach Coordinator

As a non-scientist, I'm always thrilled and stunned to sit in the symposium and hear what scientists and citizen scientists are doing to restore the earth. We don't hear that every day. Instead, we see polar bears looking at broken ice, dead coral, cesspools and headlines about the end of the earth. That makes one hopeless and inactive. USI gives hope with actual hands on work.

We citizens get to hear what scientists and others have already been doing to help the earth. We learned at this last symposium that a scientist and farmers have a company to remove some heavy metal from the soil and recycle it back into industry, we learn that some contaminated land can be temporarily stabilized, or the myriad things the Board's scientists have invented and are doing. I know this is a very very complex issue but I do think that "hope" is a selling point for USI and a way to attract the interest (and money) of citizens. (I also wish I could buy shares in scientist's companies - like a pool of assets but that's not the purpose of USI.)

TO test out whether others would be excited about the symposium, I posted two stories on my Facebook groups with these leads (stories below):

• "Hope for the Earth: Restoring our soils (aka soil remediation)"

• "What we don't ask in grocery stores but do ask our city gardeners" (thanks Anna!)


• "Interesting and exciting read!" (From a nature photographer and contractor)

• "This is such important work! Scientists are really doing this?" (from an educator)

• From the head of Syracuse library science department: A phone call to talk about where the food in grocery stores come, what organic means, what is in the soils where food is grown. I'm guessing more research will come, her purchasing habits may change and she'll talk about it in her community.

• Number of responses: 10 (vs zero responses on any of the USI and symposium posts I've put up in the last 2 years.)

Conclusion (based on very limited evidence!)

• Citizen readers want to see a good, positive lead or a good question

• Be able to understand what the scientific words mean in simple language - even words like remediation. To be honest, I struggled with the word "remediation." I know what it means but it helped me grasp it more quickly by writing "restoring our soils." I know that might not be quite right but I think it caught people's attention.

Here's my lead and what I wrote (apologies if my notes misrepresented what was said!)

Hope for the Earth: Restoring our soils (aka soil remediation) Just attended an amazing international symposium were scientists talked about the work they've been doing and are planning to do:

1. Agra-mining: French farmers who own toxic soils and a soil scientist have started a business where they grow a variety of plants that are good at absorbing various heavy metals (cadmium, Zn, copper, etc.) The team then harvests the plants and then harvests the metals from the plants, recycling them back into industry. I didn't have a chance to ask how long it would take to reduce the amount of various metals in the soil.

2. Industrial toxic pools - a temporary solution for limiting leaching and absorption of toxins by plants and animals including kids...Toxic pools are areas where a smelter or other industrial factory "placed" their metal and other waste producing a soup with very high (toxic) levels of various metals and etc. that then leach into the water table, are absorbed into the plants grown in the soil and hang out in the dust, getting on your shoes, hands, whatever you and your kids come near. The same French team has been studying a toxic pool for ten years. Compost and healthy soil was applied at the top and over a decade the land turned from a few weeds to a forest with a healthy number of microbes in the soil. Here's the interesting thing - these additions caused the toxic metals to bond with other elements so they became more stable; they stopped showing up in water tests and in the plants growing in the soil. In fact the area became safe enough for living things to be in it. This is a short term solution. As soon as industry tries to dig the land up or a developer puts a housing complex up, the balance can change and the compounds holding the toxins could break down putting us back at square 1.

3. Microbes that are attracted to certain toxins are being studied by a group of citizens (with the help of scientists) along Newtown Creek, an extremely toxic area a few miles from where many of us live in NYC.

4. Chernobyl - A young PhD from Russia's RUDU is studying the Chernobyl area. She has found that the land has become wild, forests have regrown and wolves and other animals that had disappeared when humans lived there, have come back.....and there is no evidence that these living things are unhealthy - I couldn't understand all of what she said but I know there were no "monsters" that had evolved and that the wild dogs they are rescuing from the Chrnobyl area can be adopted and are not radio active or ill.

5. Russia is way ahead of most nations in dealing with soil remediation. I just loved that scientists from all over the world - China, India, Russia, Spain, France, the US, Canada, Germany, Brazil that are so excited about working together to find solutions. Urban Soils Institute has brought them together to share data, and let other scientists, students, and regular citizens hear what strategies are being used for soil remediation and it was just a cool event.

There was so much more but if you've gotten to this point and your still interested, I am happy to refer you to all the material I picked up.

Another Post

What we don't ask in grocery stores but do ask our city gardeners: did you test your soil for toxins? How did you control insects - pesticides? Has the air quality impacted the plants...From a Brooklyn gardener and soil scientist who did test her soils and found one plot that was highly contaminated and the food was not healthy for humans to eat. (That plot was next to a road but the soil could have been contaminated because of other factors; perhaps it was used as a fire pit or dumping area. Im really amused at myself for doing exactly what this scientist said!

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

8:45 - 9:15 AM

Registration Opening

9:15 - 10:45 Symposium Organizing Committee

Tatiana Morin, USI

Elvira Dovletyarova, RUDN

Robert Cody, NYIT

USI Updates & Partnership with NPS

George Lozefski, USI

National Park Service

Special Address - USI Co-Founders

Richard Shaw, USDA-NRCS

Paul Mankiewicz, Gaia Technologies

Symposium Format: Igor Bronz, USI

Special Feature: Neil Young's "Mother Earth Anthem"

10:45 - 11:00 Break

Session 1: Urban Soils of the city: inherent, altered, imported, exported, resilient

Speaker Session Moderators: Anna Paltseva, CUNY,USI, Igor Bronz, USI

11:00 Don't know much about history

Richard Shaw, State Soil Scientist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, NJ State Office, USI Co-founder

11:25 Soils in Habitat Restoration

Olga Vargas, Resource Soil Scientist, Greenwich, New York, USDA-NRCS

11:40 Delivering Urban Agriculture

Mike Rezny, Assistant Director, Gardens & The Governor's Island Teaching Garden, GrowNYC

11:55 How do we raise the next generation of urban soil stewards?

Fran Agnone, Sustainability Coach, National Wildlife Foundation

12:10 Urban Materials Banking: Upcycling to Achieve Societal Goals

Dan Walsh, Adjunct Senior Research Scientist, Earth Institute Columbia Univeristy Affiliate:Earth Engineering Center (EEC)

12:25 Urban soils research at Santiago de Compostela: First results and future directions

Remigio Paradelo Núñez, Research Fellow, Dept of Soil Science & Agricultural Chemistry, University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain

12:40 Lunch

1:40 Session 1 Roundtable

Roundtable Moderators: Mark Maddaloni (MC), CARDNO CHEMRISK, Mike Rezny, GrowNYC, Richard Shaw, USDA-NRCS

2:35 Break
Session 2: Urban soils in restoration & ecological recovery

Speaker Session Moderators: Elvira Dovletyarova, RUDN, Maha Deeb-Collet, CUNY, USI

2:35 Nature 4.0 : a new approach to monitor nature - The TreeTalker

Riccardo Valentini, Nobel Price for Peace as member of IPCC board, Full Professor Tuscia University-Dept of Innovation of Biological Systems, Food & Forestry, Viterbo, Italy

2:55 What is quality of the soils in Paris?

Thomas Lerch, Assistant Professor, Univeristy Paris, Dept Soil Biology & Biogeochemistry Institute of Ecological & Environmental Sci., Paris, France

3:10 Chernobyl Exclusion Zone: problems and solutions

Ramilla Hajiaghaeva, PhD, RUDN, Moscow, Russia

3:25 Soil Revival, Hallelujah!

Gil Lopez, Co-founder, President Smiling Hogshead Ranch

3:40 Forest Management Framework for New York City

Kristen King, Director of Natural Areas Restoration & Management, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation

3:55 Break

4:10 Session 2 Roundtable

Roundtable Moderators: Mark Maddaloni (MC), CARDNO CHEMRISK, Paul Mankiewicz, Gaia Technologies, USI, Slava Vasenev, RUDN

5:05 Break 5:20 Project:Soils, Art Extension Service to the USI

Margaret Boozer, Director Red Dirt Studio & Claire Huschle, Director Scaffold Support, USI- AES

Moderator: Richard Shaw, USDA-NRCS

6:00-7:30 Happy Hours! in Lobby: art exhibit/auction/soil shop

Friday, December 7th, 2018

8:45 - 9:10 AM


Special Feature

Neil Young's "Mother Earth Anthem"


9:15 USI & RUDN

9:20 Monitoring, modeling and managing urban soils and green infrastructure

Elvira Dovletyarova, Deputy Director of Education, Director Dept of Landscape Design & Sustainable Ecosystems of Agrarian-technological Institute,Peoples’ Friendship Univ of Russia (RUDN)

9:30 SUITMA 10 (Soils of Urban, Industrial, Traffic, Mining and Military Areas) Seoul, Korea

Kye-Hoon John KIM, Dean, College of Natural Science, Professor of Soils, Dept of Environmental Horticulture, University of Seoul, Korea, Co-Chair of SUITMA10

9:40 Pedons to Pixels: Soil Systems and Digital Soil Survey

Pam Thomas, Associate Director of Soil Survey Programs Soil and Plant Sciences Division, USDA-NRCS

9:55 Current soil survey activities in the region

Luis Hernandez, Regional Director Soil Survey Region 12 USDA-NRCS, Massachusetts

10:10 Welcome

Ben Solotaire, Community Organizer for Council Member Stephen Levin District 33

10:20 Break


Moderator: Richard Shaw, USDA-NRCS

10:20 Improvement of ecosystem services provided by industrial and mining sites

Jean Louis Morel, Professor, Environmental Biology University of Lorraine, Nancy, France, INRA, GISFI

10:50 Break
Session 3: Urban Soils Resources and Ecosystem & Health Services

Speaker Session Moderators: George Lozefski, USI, Luis Hernandez, USDA-NRCS

10:50 Urban soil carbon: local, regional and global perspectives

Viacheslav (Slava) Vasenev, Associate Professor, Dept of Landscape Design and Sustainable Ecosystems, RUDN, Moscow, Russia

11:10 Aggregation in Green Infrastructure Technosols influences carbon, microbial, hydraulic and contaminant dynamics

Maha Deeb-Collet, Post-Doc, City University of NY, USI

11:25 SWALE

Mary Mattingly, Artist based in New York City

11:40 Jamaica Bay subaqueous soil survey

Donald Parizek, Soil Survey Office Leader, Tolland MLRA, USDA-NRCS

11:55 Break

12:10 Session 3 Roundtable

Roundtable Moderators: George Lozefksi, USI, Max Lerner, NYC Parks & Recreation, Daniel Gimenez, Rutgers

1:05 Lunch
Session 4 Pecha Kucha : Learning from Urban Soils in remediation & Restoration cont'd

Moderators: Shino Tanikawa, NYCSWCD, USI, Luis Hernandez, USDA-NRCS

2:00 Carbon Sponge: A Transdisciplinary Approach to Carbon Sequestration in Urban Soils

Brooke Singer, Associate Professor of New Media, SUNY Purchase; Designer in Residence at The New York Hall of Science

Maxine Levin, Chair of the Urban and Anthropogenic Soils Division of the Soil Science Society of America

Joseph Charap, Director of Horticulture and Curator Green-Wood Cemetery

Samuel Anderson, Urban Agriculture Specialists, Cornell Cooperative Extension National Park Service

Alex Schweder, Artist, Architect, Professor

2:30 Panel for Pecha Kucha

3:00 Break

Session 5: Learning from Urban Soils in remediation

Speaker Session Moderators: Paul Mankiewicz, Gaia Technologies, USI, Shakara Petteway, The NYC Compost Project Hosted by Big Reuse

3:15 Getting value with plants from metal contaminated sites

Jean Louis Morel, Professor, Environmental Biology University of Lorraine, Nancy, France, INRA, GISFI

3:40 A story of an urban garden

Anna Paltseva, PhD Candidate, CUNY, USI

3:55 The working world of microbes in NYC

Jason Sinopoli, A local resident and long-time advocate of mycoremediation, Newtown Creek Alliance

4:10 Addressing soil microbiome knowledge gaps in the context of Urban Ecosystems

Bharath Prithiviraj, Senior Scientist, Prime Discoveries, NY, Advanced Science Research Center, City University of New York

4:25 Break

4:40 Session 5 Roundtable

Roundtable Moderators: Jean Louis Morel, University of Lorraine, INRA, GISFI , Peter Groffman, CUNY, Richard Shaw, USDA-NRCS

5:35 Closing session
Elvira Dovletyarova is Director of the Department of Landscape Design and Sustainable Ecosystems RUDN University of Russia, Associate Professor, PhD. Director of the RUDN studio of Landscape architecture and design. In 2007, the Department of Landscape Design and Sustainable Ecosystems was opened at RUDN University, under her leadership. She is Vice-President of the Association of Landscape Architects of Russia, member of the Soil Science Society named after V. V. Dokuchaev. Author of more than 70 scientific and methodological works. ​

Website: http://eng.rudn.ru/

Session: Plenary Session. Moderator

Presentation Title: Monitoring, modeling, and managing urban soils and green infrastructure

Pam Thomas is the Associate Director for the Soils Program, Soil and Plant Science Division, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service. Her primary responsibilities are budget planning and execution, goals and performance reporting, workload planning and analysis, strategic planning, and mission support. Dr. Thomas received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Agronomy and a Ph.D. degree in Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences from Virginia Tech.

Session Name: Plenary Session

Presentation Title: Pedons to Pixels: Soil Systems and Digital Soil Survey

Luis Hernandez is Soil Survey Regional Director for Soil Survey Region 12. In this position he provides overall leadership for soil survey quality control & assurance in the glaciated northeast. He possess 26 years of experience mapping, classifying, and interpreting soils. He was responsible for leading the NYC Soil Survey Program from 1994 – 2001.

Session Name: Plenary Session, Moderator

Presentation Title: Current soil survey activities in the region

Jean Louis Morel is professor emeritus in environmental biology at the University of Lorraine (UL). His research interests are i) the dynamics of pollutants in soil-plant systems, ii) the evolution of soils strongly affected by human activities, and iii) the remediation of polluted and degraded soils based on phytoremediation, agromining, and soil restoration. He created and led until 2012 the Laboratoire Sols & Environnement of UL and INRA. He chairs the GISFI, a scientific consortium devoted to understanding the functioning of brownfield sites and the development of soil remediation technologies. He leads the International Joint Lab ECOLAND between Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU), Guangzhou and UL to develop ecosystem services provided by contaminated land, and he is appointed Adjunct Professor at SYSU. He chaired from 2007 to 2015 the SUITMA group (Soils of

Urban, Industrial, Traffic, Mining and Military Areas) of the International Union of Soil Science. https://sites.google.com/site/wgsuitma/home/members/jean-louis-morel

Session: Plenary, Moderator

Presentation Title: Improvement of ecosystem services provided by industrial and mining sites

Session 5: Learning from Urban Soils in remediation

Presentation Title: Getting value with plants from metal contaminated sites

Kye-Hoon John Kim is educated in Republic of Korea at Seoul National University (B.S., M.S.] and the University of Georgia, U.S.A. (Ph. D), in Soil Science. He worked for the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety for 6 years and has been working for the University of Seoul since 1997 as soils professor. He is the Dean of College of Natural Science, Professor of Soils in the Department of Environmental Horticulture, University of Seoul, Korea Chair of SUITMA

Session: Plenary

Presentation: SUITMA

Margaret Boozer is a Ceramist and Sculptor. She lives and works in the Washington, DC metro area. She received a BFA in sculpture from Auburn University and an MFA in ceramics from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Boozer developed an interest in digging native clays that has led to collaborations with soil scientists and work that explores intersections of art and science. Her work is included in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and The US Department of State among others. Recent projects include a large scale mapping/ earth work for MGM National Harbor in Maryland using local clay dug from the site. Her gallery is Michael Warren Contemporary in Denver, CO where she recently exhibited Margaret Boozer: Harbor Studies. She is currently working on a collaborative project with NYC Urban Soils Institute.

Full Bio Link: http://www.margaretboozer.com/contact.html

Session Name: Art Extension Service to USI Launch

Presentation Title: Project:Soils

Scaffold founder and director Claire Huschle has over two decades of arts management experience. She served as Director of George Mason University’s Arts Management program, where she has been an adjunct professor since 2007. She was awarded a fellowship at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where she worked with the Center’s senior leadership and co-produced a study on regional trends in millennial audience engagement. From 2005-2011, she served as Executive Director of the Arlington Arts Center (Arlington, VA). In that role, she significantly increased the operating budget, built operational reserves, negotiated a 25-year lease, and brought together a talented staff, raising the AAC’s profile both regionally and nationally.

Full Bio link: https://scaffoldartsupport.com/scaffoldartsupport-about/

Session Name: Art Extension Service to USI Launch

Presentation Title: Project:Soils

Richard Shaw is a NJ State Soil Scientist at the USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service. His responsibilities include providing technical soils assistance to internal and external customers in NJ and NYC, serving as liaison to National Cooperative Soil Survey partners, and overseeing the management and distribution of local soils information. Dr. Shaw received his M.S. & Ph.D. degrees from the Department of Soils and Crops at Rutgers University. He is a Co-Founder of the USI.

Full Bio link: https://www.usi.nyc/richard-shaw.html

Session 1: Urban Soils of the city: inherent, altered, imported, exported, resilient

Presentation Title: NYC soil survey:why and how it started, what do we know about urban soils

Olga Vargas is a USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Resource Soil Scientist in NY. She provides technical soil services to eastern NY. She is also the ground penetrating radar operator, for NY-NRCS. She also operates the Portable X-Ray Florescence (PXRF) in trace metal analysis and Electrical Magnetic Induction (EMI) meter. Her career with NRCS began as a Soil Conservation Technician, first in Illinois (1998) and then in Maine. Her initial soil survey mapping experience includes working on the NYC Soil Survey from 2001-2003 and in the Adirondacks from 2006-2008. Olga received her B.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University in 1997.

Session 1: Urban Soils of the city: inherent, altered, imported, exported, resilient

Fran Agnone​ is a sustainability coach with the National Wildlife Federation. She has been using the outdoors as a learning space since getting lost in the canopy of her father’s backyard fig collection in New Jersey. In her career as an educator she has taught and developed programming with The New York Botanical Garden, The National Park Service and Beam Camp. She holds a Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology from New York University and a Masters of Arts in Education from Brooklyn College. She is currently a full-time employee of the National Wildlife Federation and acting as a Sustainability Coach with Greenpoint Eco-School Program.

Session 1: Urban soils in restoration & ecological recovery

Presentation Title: How do we raise the next generation of urban soil stewards?

Mike Rezny is the Assistant Director of GrowNYC's community-based urban agriculture program, Open Space Greening. Open Space Greening, founded in 1975, has built more than 115 community gardens and urban farms in all 5 boroughs and provided material and technical assistance to hundreds of open spaces. Over the last 6 years, Mike has overseen the construction of 51 community gardens, a teaching farm on Governors Island, and the T5 Farm at JFK Airport.

Session 1: Urban Soils of the city: inherent, altered, imported, exported, resilient

Presentation Title: Delivering Urban Agriculture

Dr. Daniel Walsh is a geochemist with over 30 years of experience in government regulating environmental quality. He was appointed by the Bloomberg administration to serve as founding director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation. He formerly directed the Superfund, Brownfield & Solid Waste programs for New York State (NYS) Department of Environmental Conservation in NYC. He served as NYS Chief of Operations for the World Trade Center disaster.

He founded the U.S. only municipally-run land cleanup program in 2010 and lead its growth to the second largest remediation programs in the U.S. Dr. Walsh has directed environmental cleanup of over 10,000 properties in his career, perhaps as many as anyone in U.S. history. He is an advocate for municipal environmental governance and has established innovative urban programs, such as the world’s first urban soil bank (NYC Clean Soil Bank) to build coastal storm-surge barriers and reduce toxin exposure in urban soils. He is an Adjunct Senior Research Scientist at Columbia University where he performs research on municipal environmental governance, the use of materials banking to improve recycling and sustainability in urban areas, and urban environmental history.

Session 1: Urban Soils of the city: inherent, altered, imported, exported, resilient

Presentation Title: Urban Materials Banking: Upcycling to Achieve Societal Goals

Remigio Paradelo is a Ramón y Cajal research fellow at the Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry (Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Spain). He studies the influence and impacts of human activities (agriculture, mining, urbanization...) on soils, as well as the remediation of the negative impacts through organic waste reuse and composting. He also lectures on soil science, geology, agronomy and environmental science.

Session 1: Urban soils in restoration

Presentation Title: Urban soils research at Santiago de Compostela: First results and future directions

Mark Maddaloni has 35 years of professional work experience in the areas of environmental health, toxicology, and human health risk assessment. Prior to joining Cardno, he served as a senior toxicologist and the Regional Risk Assessment Coordinator in the Office of the Regional Administrator for EPA – Region 2. He has served on numerous EPA National Workgroups including: metals, asbestos, chemical mixtures, PCBs, perfluoroalkyl substances, and bioavailability. EPA recognized Mark as a national expert in lead (Pb) risk assessment. Mark has served on a CDC Pb Poison Prevention Advisory Committee and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Science Advisory Board. He is presently the longest serving member (appointed in 2000) of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). Mark received his DrPH in environmental health sciences from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health - thesis title: Measurement of Soil-borne Lead bioavailabilty in Adult Human Subjects and its Application in Biokinetic Modeling. He received an MS in Toxicology from St. John’s University and a BS in Pharmacy from Long Island University. Mark is a Diplomat of the American Board of Toxicology and a member of the Society of Toxicology.

Session 1 & 2: Moderator

Riccardo Valentini graduated at University of Rome “La Sapienza” in Physics. In 1987 he became researcher at the University of Tuscia, Faculty of Agriculture continuing to work on plant – climate interactions. He was one of the pioneer of terrestrial carbon flux measurements and coordinated a global network of more than 600 flux towers (FLUXNET) placed in several world ecosystems in North and South America, Europe, Australia, China, Japan and Africa. He was coordinating lead author in the 3rd IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and 5th report on Climate Impacts and Adaptation. He is Lead Author of the IPCC Special Report Climate Change and Land Use. Recently he has been awarded of the Medal of the Italian Academy of Science “of the XL” for Physics and Natural Sciences. He is Thompson Reuters highly cited scientist 2017. His main research interests concern GHG balances in relation to land use and land use changes, including relevant feed-backs on the global biogeochemical cycles and climate impacts. Recently his also interested on how food systems are impacting the coupled human – biosphere interactions and how new technologies should be implemented to reduce human pressures on natural resources. Dr. Valentini is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and member of the IPCC board. Full Bio Link:


Session 2: Urban soils in restoration & ecological recovery

Presentation Title: Global/political/economic framework on env problems, climate change

Dr. Thomas Lerch is associate professor of Soil Ecology at the University of Eastern Paris, France. His main research interests are focused on the relationships between microbial communities and soil organic matter dynamics using isotopic and molecular techniques.

Session 2: Urban soils in restoration & ecological recovery

Presentation Title: What is quality of the soils in Paris?

Ramilla Hajiaghaeva is a research Fellow at the Center of Mathematical Modeling and Design of Sustainable Ecosystems of Agrarian-Technological Institute, Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University) in Moscow. Her current area of scientific interests is radioecology and soil chemistry.

Full Bio link: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ramilla-hajiaghayeva-239615b2/

Session 2: Urban soils in restoration & ecological recovery

Presentation Title: Chernobyl Exclusion Zone: problems and solutions

Kristy King is the Director of Natural Areas Restoration and Management in the Forestry, Horticulture, and Natural Resources division of NYC Parks. Her team is responsible for improving urban ecosystem health through invasive plant management, debris removal and wetland restoration, native species planting, and trail management. Kristy has been with NYC Parks since 2007, and has also managed street tree planting, published peer-reviewed research on the benefits of the urban forest, and managed contractor forest restoration work prior to obtaining her current title. Kristy received a BS in Biology from the College of Charleston and an MA in Conservation Biology from Columbia University. She is an ISA-Certified Arborist and a Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner.

Session 2: Urban soils in restoration & ecological recovery

Presentation Title: Forest Management Framework for New York City

Dr. Viacheslav I. Vasenev, soil scientists and environmental scientist, obtained PhD degree in Lomonosov Moscow State University (2011) and Wageningen University (2015). Dr Vasenev is associate professor at the Department of Landscape design and sustainable ecosystems in RUDN University (Russia), co-founder and coordinator of the international summer school “Monitoring, modelling and management of urban green infrastructure and soils (3MUGIS)” and a double-diploma master program “Management and design of urban green infrastructure”, provided by RUDN University in cooperation with Tuscia University (Italy). The main research interests and scientific expertise relate to urban soils, their functions and services, including soil organic carbon stocks, microbiological activity green house gases emissions. Most of the research projects leaded by Dr Vasenev link urban soils to sustainable development of urban green infrastructure.

e-mail: Vasenev-vi@run.ru; vasenyov@mail.ru

Session 3: Urban Soils Resources and Ecosystem & Health Services, Moderator

Presentation Title: Urban soil carbon: local, regional and global perspectives

Dr. Maha Deeb-Collet is a Postdoctoral Research Assistant in the Environmental Sciences Initiative at the GC-ASRC and part of the USI team. She is interested in improving the quality of urban soils and their ecosystem services in order to improve quality of life for urban residents.She received her Master’s in Soil Pedogenesis in Syria, following which she worked as an Assistant Professor at the University of Damascus. After moving to France in 2011, Dr. Deeb-Collet obtained a second Master’s in Environmental Science at Lorraine University, followed by a PhD from the University of Paris Est in December 2015. She began working as a Postdoc at CUNY in March 2016.

Session 3: Urban Soils Resources and Ecosystem & Health Services, Moderator

Presentation Title: Aggregation in Green Infrastructure Technosols influences carbon, microbial, hydraulic and contaminant dynamics

Gil Lopez is passionate about the soil food web, democracy in the workplace, collectives, and communal living. Based in Western Queens, he takes a pragmatic approach to addressing environmental justice and food sovereignty thru direct action and reskilling people towards reappropriation of production and subsistence based lifestyles. He is Co-founder/President of Smiling Hogshead Ranch and Program Manager at the NYC Compost Project Hosted by Big Reuse

Session 3: Urban Soils Resources and Ecosystem & Health Services

Presentation Title: Soil Revival, Hallelujah!

Mary Mattingly is an artist based in New York City. She founded a floating food forest on a barge in New York called “Swale” where anyone can forage fresh food for free on the waterfront, since restrictions on New York City's public space disallow public foraging. Mattingly recently transplanted a group of edible palm trees from Florida to Storm King Sculpture Park in upstate New York, the introduced flora accounting for predictions in climatological shifts and how that may affect agricultural zones. Mattingly’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Le Monde, New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and on PBS's Art21.

Session 3: Urban Soils Resources and Ecosystem Services

Presentation Title: Project SWALE

Donald Parizek, Occupation: Soil Scientist with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service. Job Duties: National Cooperative Soil Survey Mapping, Technical Soil Services, Soil Interpretations, Soil Survey Database Management, Wetlands, Ecological Site Descriptions, Soil Science Training. Experience: Soil Survey Activities in: AK, CT, MA, ME, NJ, NH, NY, PR, and RI. Most Remote. Location: Sleetmute, AK - population 86 – permafrost soils. Most Urban Location: NYC – population 8.5 Million – anthropogenic soils. Warmest Climate: Camp Santiago, PR – tropical grassland soils. Coolest New Frontier: Jamaica Bay CZSS - subaqueous soils. Education: Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Soil Science UCONN, 1988. Hobbies: Hunting, Fishing, Camping, Gardening, Beekeeping, Maple Sugaring, Christmas Tree Production, Scouting Volunteer

Full Bio link: https://www.linkedin.com/in/donald-parizek-90730b65/

Session 3: Urban Soils Resources and Ecosystem Services

Presentation Title: Coastal Zone Soil Survey of Jamaica Bay, NY, 2018 Updates

Max Lerner is an Environmental Scientist focused on designing sustainable methods of urban development and is currently conducting research through his work for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation as the city’s Sustainability Project Development Coordinator. As the lead in the agency’s work towards exploring emerging technology options he has the opportunity to vet frontline solutions with the intent of making our city capable of meeting our needs today without compromising its ability to continue to do so tomorrow. His initiatives can be seen within parks, urban farms and environmental education programs throughout New York City,these efforts are fueled by a passion to produce work that generates a positive impact on the world around him and strives to pursue this goal both personally and professionally on a daily basis.

Session 3: Urban Soils Resources and Ecosystem & Health Services, Moderator

Brooke Singer is an artist who lives in New York City. Her work blurs the borders between science, technology, politics and arts practices. Her work lives "on" and "off" line in the form of websites, workshops, photographs, maps, installations and social spaces that involves public participation in pursuit of social change. She is Associate Professor of New Media at Purchase College, a co-founder of the former collective Preemptive Media and co-founder of La Casita Verde, a living laboratory and community garden in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She is currently a Designer in Residence at The New York Hall of Science. www.brookesinger.net

Pecha Kucha Session: Learning from Urban Soils in remediation & restoration cont’d

Presentation Title: Carbon Sponge: A Transdisciplinary Approach to Carbon Sequestration in Urban Soils

Maxine Levin is the 2017 Chair of the Urban and Anthropogenic Soils Division of the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). As a Retired Soil Scientist with USDA, one of her career highlights included serving as the project leader for the 1985 soil survey in Baltimore City MD. Maxine enjoys public speaking and is an enthusiastic gardener.

Full Bio link: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maxine-levin-43ab771b/

Pecha Kucha Session: Learning from Urban Soils in remediation & restoration cont’d

Presentation Title: soil and art partnership and project

Joseph Charap is Green-Wood’s Director of Horticulture and Curator. At Green- Wood since 2015, Joseph is responsible for curating and developing the arboretum’s living collections, managing the horticulture operations, and establishing research and educational initiatives related to its collection. He graduated from the New York Botanical Garden School of Professional Horticulture and holds a Master’s degree in English literature from Brooklyn College.

Pecha Kucha Session: Learning from Urban Soils in remediation & restoration cont’d

Presentation Title: New turf management study

Sam Anderson is an Urban Agriculture Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension, working with urban farmers across New York City on soil management, crop pests and disease, and other production challenges. Prior to this position he worked with beginning farmers for eight years at New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture and received an M.A. in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University.

Pecha Kucha Session: Learning from Urban Soils in remediation & restoration cont’d

Presentation Title: NYC Survey of Productive Soils

Alex Schweder, born in New York City, 1970, coined the term “Performance Architecture” in 2007 to encapsulate the understanding of architecture that it both gives cues for how we are to behave and offers itself as a prop for inhabitants to form and perform their identities. His work along these lines has been exhibited and collected internationally including the Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Britain, Perform 17, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. He is a fellow of the American Academy in Rome and currently lives and works in New York City.

Pecha Kucha Session: Learning from Urban Soils in remediation & restoration cont’d

Presentation Title: This Apple Tastes Like Our Living Room Used to Smell.

Anna (Anya) Paltseva is a PhD candidate in Earth & Environmental Sciences at CUNY Graduate Center. She focuses on the assessment of heavy metals bioavailability in urban soils. She lectures at Brooklyn College, the New York and Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Anna serves as a program coordinator at NYC Urban Soil Institute developing educational materials, leading soil workshops, and coordinating collaborations with international researchers. Full Bio Link: www.linkedin.com/in/annapaltseva/

Session 5: Learning from Urban Soils in remediation

Presentation Title: A story of an urban garden

Jason Sinopoli “A long time advocate for bioremediation, Jason Sinopoli more recently began doing citizen science by running DNA tests of the soil microbiomes surviving on contaminated sites around Greenpoint, Brooklyn. A resident of North Brooklyn since 1994, Jason has been a member of the Newtown Creek Alliance’s Bioremediation Working Group and was co-founder of the Greenpoint Bioremediation Project, which won a GCEF grant to offer bioremediation workshops for local gardeners & environmental professionals. In collaboration with Jan Mun, Jason helped with both versions of her “Fairy Rings” project on Newtown Creek and within ExxonMobil’s Greenpoint Petroleum Remediation Project, where along with Jan and Mitch Waxman, he was among the first residents allowed onto the Exxon oil spill site.”

Session 5: Learning from Urban Soils in remediation

Bharath Prithiviraj, PhD, is currently a Senior Scientist at Prime Discoveries Inc., and Adjunct Research Faculty at the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) Graduate Center, City University of New York / Brooklyn College (CUNY). Bharath is a microbiome researcher with doctoral training in the area of microbial symbioses using Fungi as biological sensors. His postdoctoral training includes an overlap of metagenomic approaches using next generation sequencing to study microbial communities in the diverse environments such as soils, plant-microbial endophytes, algal biofuels / soil crust seeding and indoor environments such as hospitals with Mark Hernandez and subway systems.

Session 5: Learning from Urban Soils in remediation

Presentation Title: Addressing soil microbiome knowledge gaps in the context of Urban Ecosystems

Session 1: Urban Soils of the city: inherent, altered, imported, exported, resilient

Olga Vargas

Soils in Habitat Restoration

The Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO) available on Web Soil Survey (WSS) is designed as a management tool for users. It helps users understand ‘soil properties and qualities’ and the ‘suitabilities and limitations for use’ of soil. In New York City, soil map units include complexes with urban land units and Human-altered or Human- transported (HAHT) soil series. HAHT soil series are placed into one of five classes that were developed to improve the understanding of their unique soil properties and impacts on successful habitat restoration of these soils.

Remigio Paradelo Núñez

Urban soils research in Santiago de Compostela: First results and future directions

Remigio Paradelo Núñez, María Teresa Barral Silva Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Departamento de Edafoloxía e Química Agrícola, Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

With its high relative surface of green areas, arranged in more than 20 separated parks with different history –a combination of ancient historical gardens and recently urbanised green areas–, the remarkable diversity of parent materials comprising granite, basic schists, gneiss and amphibolites, and the variety of land uses and vegetation, including lawn areas, forested areas and public orchards, the city of Santiago de Compostela is an excellent place for the study of urban soils and the factors that determine their properties and functions. The soils in the city are in general acid, coarse-textured soils rich in organic matter, with significant presence of poorly-crystalline components, that are not very different from their natural counterparts in the region. This year, we have started a research project focusing on their fertility status and capacity to sustain vegetation, their physical properties and role in the water cycle, the functioning of carbon and nutrient biogeochemical cycles, and the status of soil contamination with organic and inorganic substances. We hope that the project will help society acknowledge that a natural environment exists in the cities, of which soils are an important element with a relevant role beyond their constructive value, and to better understand that urban environment as an important social resource.

Session 2: Urban soils in restoration & ecological recovery

Riccardo Valentinini

More than 80% of population will leave in urban areas in 2050. The concept of Human-Nature relationship should be completely revisited and reinforced with the risk for future generations not to be anymore in contact with Nature .The boundaries and barriers between natural and human systems should become weaker allowing a continuous integrations of landscapes. In this respect ecosystems services are becoming essentials for urban citizens. Air quality, water buffering, biodiversity habitats, carbon sequestration , climate mitigation and food production are critical services for the life quality in urban areas. Green infrastructures expansion and conservation need to be an essential policy of urban development. New technologies coming from Internet of Things (IoT) are able today to monitor and assess in real time green infrastructures and urban trees health status in order to effectively reduce costs of green management and improve safety of urban life. Further, we need to switch from a vision of Industry 4.0 towards a practice of Nature 4.0. Large arrays of monitoring sensors, interoperable global IoT networks and big data analytics can improve resource use and value planetary ecosystem services. On a planetary scale, this smart combination of nature and technology is quintessential to providing solutions for a bio-based and carbon-neutral economy that limits global warming “to well below 2°C”.

Thomas Lerch

Urban soils are a crucial component of urban ecosystems, especially in public green spaces, because of the ecosystem services they provide (e.g. public recreation, urban cooling or water infiltration). In order to identify how soils may be affected by urbanization we conducted a study on the chemical, physical and microbiological characteristics of 180 soil samples collected in forest and lawn surface along an urban-rural gradient in the Paris region. Forests and lawns are the main vegetation types found in this region, and represent 3.5% and 22.2% of the territory's surface area, respectively. Most of the soil properties in urban forest differed from the other sites: sandier texture, higher organic carbon content and stability, lower microbial abundance and more contaminated in trace metals. This could be explained by the fact urban forests are much older than the lawns but also by the legacy of the historical management of these soils during the Haussmann period. Urban lawn soils were more compacted than urban forests, probably due to higher foot traffic. The effects of urbanization were, at times, confounded with other processes, which suggest that surface soil characteristics were influenced by past urban planning. This study constitutes a baseline analysis for the survey of soil quality in Paris region.

Margaret Boozer, Director Red Dirt Studio & Claire Huschle, Director Scaffold Support ,USI-AES Art Extension Service to USI Launch

Abstract: The Artist Extension Service (AES) is a group of artists and creative sorts who love soils and love working with scientists as part of our professional practice. Recognizing the power of art to make abstract ideas visible and accessible, we partner with the Urban Soils Institute (USI) to design projects and structures that educate the general public about the importance of urban soil; engender stewardship of our soils and ecology; create an interactive community of scientists, artists, and citizens; and help make soils education fun and accessible.

Session 3: Urban Soils Resources and Ecosystem & Health Services

Mary Mattingly

​“Swale” is a provocative public artwork and a floating food forest in New York City. Growing or picking food on New York’s public land has been illegal for almost a century for fear that a glut of foragers could destroy an ecosystem. Swale came out of learning that in addition to over 100 acres of community garden space in NYC, the city cares for 30,000 acres of parkland. People visit Swale to pick edible and medicinal perennial plants for free. Swale utilizes marine common law in order to be PUBLIC yet circumvent public land laws. Swale follows the insights of Elinor Ostrom and others who found that commons can be sustainably managed where people know each other, trust each other, and work together in caring for a place. There is no imposed limit to foraging on Swale. But when Swale launched in 2016 on the Bronx River, and there was not much ripe to pick, on some days we found more people bringing plants than taking them. A proposal for NYC’s public land, Swale the only public place in the city that people can freely forage from.

As a direct result of Swale and the support of community groups, the NYC parks department just opened their first land-based pilot – a public “foodway” at Concrete Plant Park in the Bronx. If it goes well, they may do more.

An architectural folly is something that is out of place, in order to surprise us and ask us to reconsider our surroundings. While urban food forests won’t feed a city, a multitude of different questions and answers that are closer to home are necessary if we are going to begin to heal from damage done to the environment, ourselves and our neighbors by industrial systems of production. At its heart, Swale is a call to action. It asks us to reconsider our food systems, to confirm our belief in healthy food as a human right and to pave pathways to create public food in public space.

Donald Parizek

In 2018 the 12-TOL Soil Survey Office started field work in Jamaica Bay as part of the ongoing Coastal Zone Soil Survey (CZSS) for the bay. The project is building on previous subaqueous soil survey work conducted by NRCS back in 2004. 12-TOL soil survey staff coordinated efforts with the National Park Service to secure the appropriate permits to begin field work. 12-TOL Soil Survey staff collected 30 subaqueous soil survey cores during the 2018 field season on targeted subaqueous landforms across the bay. Field work was conducted in cooperation with NRCS soil scientists from NY-NJ NRCS and staff from the Urban Soils Institute (USI). Soil cores have been described and sampled and entered into the National Soils Information System (NASIS). The Kellogg Soil Survey Lab (KSSL) will be conducting the appropriate analysis on the sampled subaqueous soils. 12-TOL soil survey staff will be working on mapping the bay and building the soil survey database with plans to publish the survey in 2020.

Dr. Maha Deeb-Collet

Aggregation in Green Infrastructure Technosols influences carbon, microbial, hydraulic and contaminant dynamics Maha Deeb.a,b, Peter M. Groffman a,b, Matthew Amato c, Ali al-Sarraji c, George Lozefski a, Zhongqi Cheng a, Richard K. Shaw d, Daniel Giménez c Affiliations a Brooklyn College of The City University of New York, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Brooklyn, NY 11210, USA b Advanced Science Research Center at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, New York, NY 10031, USA c Rutgers University, Department of Environmental Sciences, NJ 08901, USA d USDA-NRCS, 220 Davidson Ave., Somerset, NJ 08873, USA


Green Infrastructure (GI) is being used to mitigate storm water runoff and provide ancillary benefits in many urban areas. Aggregation is a key process in many soil functions and is known to be influenced by the amount of soil organic carbon (SOC) and hydraulic properties. Triplicates (undisturbed) soil samples were taken from the inlet, center and outlet of 6 bioswale sites in New York City. These young GI sites (< 10 years) were characterized by 1) determining aggregation by size fraction, 2) measuring the distribution of organics and heavy metals in each size fraction; 3) quantifying aggregate stability; 4) measuring microbial biomass and activity relevant to carbon and nitrogen cycling in each macroaggregation fraction; and 5) predicting microbial hotspots based on pore and aggregation size distribution.

Our results showed that, overall, these GI sites were mainly composed of non- macroaggregated soil (60% of soil < 2 mm). Center and outlet locations had 50% higher macro aggregation compared to the inlet. Both location and aggregate size had a significant effect on heavy metal concentration (P < 0.05). Aggregates between 0.5 mm to 2 mm had the highest SOC compared to macro and micro size fractions. Microbial respiration was higher at the largest aggregates (size > 5 mm). Largest values of infiltration, saturated hydraulic conductivity, and structural stability were found at the center location, which could be explained by a greater concentration of SOC compared to the outlet and inlet. In addition, both center and outlet locations had a higher potential to remove nitrate by denitrification, compared to the inlet. In addition, GI surface area was positively related to water storage capacity. Evaluating physical and biogeochemical characteristics of soil aggregates will help understand GI health and predict their ability to function in the long term.

​Pecha Kucha Session 4: Learning from Urban Soils in remediation & Restoration cont'd

Sam Anderson

Abstract: NYC Survey of Productive Soils

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Urban Agriculture Program works to support urban farmers throughout NYC. Over the course of our first year, we have found over 40 urban farms, more than 30 of which are soil-based. The majority of these sites do not use the underlying native or fill soil, but rather an imported/constructed soil – such as purchased topsoil, lightweight rooftop mixes, or straight compost. It stands to reason that these would behave differently than typical agricultural soils; therefore, it stands to reason that standard best practices for agricultural soils may need to be adjusted for urban farms using imported/constructed soils. In order to better understand what we’re working with, I started the NYC Survey of Productive Soils. After obtaining soil nutrient and plant tissue analysis at ten sites, twice at each site, I am presenting here the initial findings. Key themes include high organic matter as a defining characteristic of these soils; high levels of certain soil nutrients closely correlating with organic matter percentage; reduced or excessive availability of certain nutrients (e.g. excessive N, reduced Mn); and persisting questions about fluctuations in nutrient levels across the soil.

Session 5: Learning from Urban Soils in remediation

Anna Paltseva

A Story of an Urban Garden

Urban gardening is a growing trend in urban communities. The current research was conducted in an urban garden in Brooklyn where field plots were established with three different treatments (bone meal, compost, sulfur) and common vegetables planted. The soil total and bioaccessible fractions of Pb and As and plant tissue concentrations sampled from the urban garden were measured to identify potential exposure concerns related to human health in local communities. The results showed that Pb bioaccessibility was not high in all the plots measured with a glycine solution at pH 2.5. Bioaccessibility of Pb was significantly reduced by all three different treatments (on average 23 - 24%) compared to the control (33%). In contrast to Pb, As bioaccessibility was very high among all the plots with the highest fraction in the control plot (93%) and ranged between 80 and 92% for the treated soils. Bioaccessibility of As was significantly reduced by bone meal and sulfur treatments compared to the control. Plant type was the most significant factor determining the concentration of Pb and As in the edible crop, while amendment type had no significance. The mean concentrations of Pb and As varied by crop. In general, root crops (onion) were the highest, followed by kale and eggplant, cabbage, and then fruits (tomato). All of the onions, 90% of the eggplants, and 25% of the tomato samples showed Pb concentrations greater than the European Union (EU) standard for root and fruit crops (0.1 mg kg-1). Ninety-two percent of the kale and 33% of the cabbage samples analyzed exceeded the EU threshold of 0.3 mg kg-1 for leafy green vegetables. Amendments were beneficial only for onion, tomato, and partially for cabbage, but they increased uptake of Pb in kale. Fifty percent of the onion and 25% of the kale samples had concentrations of As greater than 0.1 mg kg-1 based on a conservative risk assessment. Other vegetables were below the 0.1 mg-1 kg threshold. All amendments helped reduce onion As contamination, which is to the opposite for kale. Sulfur addition drastically increased As concentration in kale tissues. The results of this study add to the existing knowledge base for characterizing potential exposure to As and Pb from actual urban soils and provide important site-specific metal exposure information to local community members.

Fantastic conference, thanks again for including us in the program. As was discussed on Friday, next steps are critical to putting these stellar soil project proposals into practice. We are already in the process of drafting plans to implement Gaia and other soil substitutes with Paul in a wide range of vertical and subsurface applications. In addition to this, I would like to see if we can draft some proposals to apply the cost savings and sustainability justifications supported by the symposium presenter’s research into actual policy/project application moving forward.

As you are able lets setup a time to discuss with all relevant parties, please let me know your availability as you are able, thank you.

Best regards,

Max Lerner

Sustainability Project Development Coordinator

Sustainable Facilities Division of Citywide Services

Thanks to all , for a glorious event .   Standouts were Mike Rezny , who is doing something very concrete to change lives in NYC , Prof Cody, who made us aware of the vast changes coming with climate change without getting anxious or political , yes, and the young girl who had the courage to bring us the Chernobyl situation in ENGLISH, plus,  Mark , the bubbly and enthusiastic MC …. ACTUALLY EVERYONE WAS EXCELLENT.

A little observation , it is VERY important , these days, in my books, to give enough “mix and mingle time” for people to get to know each other. As I told George , the break times were the best times .  Perhaps the biggest kudos should go to the lady who makes the coffee etc.. Tell her we grow lots of chestnuts which are 1/8 American and got 400 pounds of scrumptious CHESTNUTS this year. We hope to stay in contact with the young lady who has done an experiment with orchard soil already and her coworker ( Jason?)


Simon Mercer

Valued USI Customer

PS Joe Ben Eleazer , who also came , was thrilled to be there .

KUDOs for a most superb symposium --- edifying and entertaining at the same time.

Sorry that I had to miss the Friday evening celebration.

Joel R Kupferman, Esq,



Thanks again for such a fantastic Symposium last week.  I am still digesting the tremendous amount of info and inspiration USI hosted!  I hope you all had a moment to catch your breath and are glowing in the success of the symposium.

I mentioned to them some of the ideas for incorporating performance into future symposiums or the possibility of collaborating in educational workshops - just a taste of the possibilities!  I think there is a tremendous opportunity to deepen outreach and develop ideas together, and am eager to keep the conversation rolling. 

Thanks again for all your hard work!  Looking forward to more.

Yours truly,

Claire Moodey

Theater Artist

Just a little mail to thank you again for inviting me to NYC, it has been a great pleasure to meet you all and contribute to the symposium. I found that it was very constructive and I have gotten important lessons from the discussions with the rest of people working on urban soils, so congratulations for the organization and for the work you are doing at the USI. Moreover, I have had the impression that a strong network is being consolidated around the topic, so I would definitely love to come again next year.

Well thank you again and hope we’ll meet again soon, maybe in Korea, maybe in Moscow

Kind regards,


Ramón y Cajal Research fellow

Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry

Universidade de Santiago de Compostela

I wanted to just send a quick thank you for inviting me to present at this year’s Symposium. I appreciated all the other presenters subjects and information and thought the Symposium went well over all. I hope you feel the same about the event. 

The presentation I gave was definitely cut from a different cloth. It was the first time I put together and offered this information. I am very open to feedback. Please do let me know if you, or any attendees have any comments, questions or concerns about the topics I presented on. I do hope to continue to develop these ideas and will probably couch them within the idea of Spiritual Ecology, rather than biodynamics, in the future. 

In SOILidarity,

Gil Lopez

Co-founder/President of Smiling Hogshead Ranch

Program Manager at the NYC Compost Project Hosted by Big Reuse

I really enjoyed the conference and made some good contacts.

Warm Regards,​

Marion Yuen, GRP, LEED Green Associate

The MYA Group

Congratulations on last week symposium! It was well attended, and quality of speakers & topics, awesome. Again, congrats!!

Luis A. Hernandez, CPSC, CPSSc.

Regional Director

Soil Survey Region 12

Just wanted to thank you both for putting together such a rich, knowledgeable and varied group of presenters. Each year I attend, I feel as if a whole new world is being revealed to me. Love it! 

This year two teachers from a school I support in Greenpoint attended—-both days. They met some many interesting people and learned so many cutting edge initiatives related to soil, they are re-thinking their geology unit and running a four day intensive on soil for middle school students during February break.  I will keep you posted.

Patricia Walker

Greenpoint Eco-Schools Sustainability Coach

It was an inspiring, thought provoking and energizing 2 days.

I’m so glad I attended and look forward to being even more engaged in 2019.


Jennifer McDonnell

Resource Recovery Program Manager

NYC Environmental Protection Office of Energy

The symposium was awesome!  I was glad to be a part of it!  I would love to participate in the workshops.  Let me know when the T-shirt comes in. Happy Healthy New Year!


Nancy Galdi

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