2 minutes with Greg Bowman, President NSW Soil Knowledge Network

Our Purpose – NSW Soil Knowledge Network

Greg Bowman has spent his whole working life working with and researching soils.  Greg is one of the founding members of the NSW SKN which began in 2013. He enjoys his retirement travelling around the world and volunteering with the NSW SKN along with the occasional consulting job. 

We caught up with Greg recently to find out a little bit more about him, his role at the SKN and why he does what he does. 

Can you tell us about your role – what does a regular day for the NSW SKN president look like? 

Greg Bowman visiting Denali National Park,
Alaska. Credit: Greg Bowman

The SKN President is a part-time volunteer role, so most days it involves distributing information to members and seeking their views on topics as they arise or arranging SKN activities. I also chair and prepare reports for the SKN executive and general meetings. SKN members meet face to face a few times a year and many members are involved in activities such as soil field days and workshops. 

How did you get started in soil science? 

Throughout my working life, I have concentrated on coastal soils research and management. My Honours thesis at Sydney University examined chemical weathering processes on coastal rock platforms south from Sydney.  

My PhD thesis was in more main-stream soil research where I measured the rate of Podosol (Podzol) soil development along the east Australian coast using a range of chemical and physical parameters. This research was based on radiocarbon dating chronosequences of podzol soils developed in Holocene coastal sand barriers. 

I then joined CSIRO Division of Soils in Adelaide as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and worked jointly with the SA Mines Department to document the soils, stratigraphy and engineering properties of the Adelaide Plains. These are some of the worst foundation soils in Australia and the project ended up taking 10 years to complete. Then I transferred to CSIRO in Canberra and after working on inland soils started early research into the chemistry, assessment and management options for Australian coastal acid sulfate soils.  

What do you see as the biggest challenge for NSW soils?  

Obtaining government support to revitalise soil research and education and to preserve and utilise existing soils information and knowledge. Political and financial support for NSW soils has declined for many years and the present investment does not meet current or future needs. 

‘It [the SKN] is an effort to re-capture some of the lost expertise, that particularly State Government has lost over the last decade or so as we have all retired and we haven’t been followed by people with similar soils experience.   

So to do that, we are volunteering to get involved in current issues … to try to help those that are left, that don’t have the soil expertise or soil background.  We are trying to bring up to date the information sources that are available, we are trying to help train some of these people and as volunteers we are all enjoying being involved again as active soil scientists’ 

Our Purpose – NSW Soil Knowledge Network in which Greg speaks about the SKN and capturing soil expertise

What is the best thing about the SKN? 

Maintaining contact and friendships with former colleagues, while contributing to the worthwhile objectives of SKN. The SKN field trips with our partners (most recently to New Zealand, Dec 2022) are a great social, tourism and learning experience.

Greg Bowman (far left) with NSW SKN members at Cowra in 2015. Credit: Sally McInnes-Clarke NSW SKN

What is your favourite soil type? 

Greg Bowman at Giza, Egypt. Credit Greg Bowman

This is the easiest question to answer – coastal Podosols! 

Find out more about Podosols in our video on our YouTube channel Iconic soils of NSW – Podosol