Marvelous soil present, another adventure in Brussels


By Gerlinde De Deyn

Wageningen University, Dept. Soil Quality

September 2015. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised that I was in Brussels for the European Union Researchers’ night, this year was very special: the 10th anniversary of researchers’ the night! Not only in Brussels of course, lots to see and do across Europe at this major science outreach event which runs simultaneously in all main cities of the EU

For this occasion I was not asked to bring a living soil micro-zoo, just myself and my reflections on what makes science so wonderful for me. The setting: a predominantly French interview by the public from Brussels, with Christophe Deborsu as moderator and Stefaan Vaes (University of Leuven, Dept. of Mathemathics) and me (Flemish soil ecologist who hardly spoke French since leaving Belgium fifteen years ago) as the researchers. 

How and at which age did we get inspired to become a scientist? What do we earn and how many hours a week do we work? Why did you move to another country? What impact does your science have on society? What is the current status of biodiversity? How come there are so few female professors? These were just a few of the questions that came a long during the interview. Not always easy to answer, but luckily not due to language - thanks to an eager public and multi-lingual moderator.

Was there any soil ecology involved? Sure there was in this International Year of Soils! We gave a copy of the European Soil Biodiversity Atlas (French or English version) to each person posing a question. Perhaps some of them will get the spark of wonder and turn into soil ecologists… Given the enthusiasm I also promised that a Global Atlas of Soil Biodiversity will come out later this year, something we are all looking forward to of course J.

PS: As with previous events also now great meet scientists you would otherwise never meet, a tip from Stefaan Vaes if you like math and visualizations of it check out this site: