Finding common ground

Posted 20 August 2012 by Karen Vancampenhout

Two years ago, I started this blog after attending the World Congress of Soil Science in Brisbane. At this conference, a major concern was that soil scientists aren't particularly succesful at interesting the general public in their science. This summer, at EUROSOIL 2012, the issue was raised again, concluding that soils are probably too boring or too difficult to appeal to a broader public. Well, I might be a little biased here, but I could not disagree more. To me,... Read more


Posted 23 April 2012 by Karen Vancampenhout

Internet and email brought us global communication, with time difference being the only thing to worry about if you want to say something to someone in a far-off corner of the world. Unfortunately, it also provides almost unlimited posibilities to rip people off. Most of these attempts are pretty obvious, including bizar stories like “I am the bastard son of the king of Farfaraway and I want you to help me inherit my fathers fortune” or “Hi we are your... Read more

The most promising words in science are not ‘eureka!’ but ‘that’s funny…’

Posted 13 April 2012 by Karen Vancampenhout

As so well stated by A. Einstein, science is at its best when you accidentally stumble upon something: A few years ago, when analysing samples for our paper on determining factors of soil organic matter chemistry in temperate forest topsoil (Soil Biology and Biochemistry 42, 568-579) we accidentally analysed some subsoil samples as well. We soon realised our mistake, cursed our own stupidity, redid that part of the labwork with the obligatory grumpyness and gave the whole thing no further... Read more

Another day in the life of a PhD marriage: buying new car seats for the baby

Posted 2 April 2012 by Karen Vancampenhout

"What do you mean, you don't have a crash-test facility available?" ... Read more

Meanwhile in Belgium…

Posted 23 March 2012 by Karen Vancampenhout

This time last year, I tried to explain Belgian politics in this blog. As you can read here, the political struggle to form a federal government badly affected scientists. Projects were postponed, congresses lost their budget and 500 renowned foreign scientists working in Belgium ran out of funding. Since December 6 2011, we finally have a federal government and postponed projects could start a year late. But if we thought that would be the end of it, we were wrong:... Read more

Dust to dust, the sequel

Posted 5 March 2012 by Karen Vancampenhout

In one of my previous posts, I was musing on the idea that people seem to share the properties of the soils on which they live. In the latest volume of Antiquity (Vol 82:317, 2008 pp 640-657), Professor Retallack published an amazing link between soils and culture: For 84 Classical Greek temples (480-338 BC), he found that “the soil and vegetation matches the dedications to particular deities, suggesting an economic basis for particular cults” <gregory j.="" retallack="" -="" rocks,="" views,=""... Read more


Posted 10 February 2012 by Karen Vancampenhout

Sometimes you find strange things in a profile pit, but this certainly is one of the strangest pits in my carreer…it is located beneath the 1000-year old cemetary of the St. Rombouts Cathedral, which is archaeologically excavated to make room for a parking lot. We are studing the old sandy soils that reside below the most ancient remains of Mechelen, buried deeply below the present-day city. Much to our suprise, we still find almost intact Podzols there, right beneath layers... Read more

Thank God it’s Christmas

Posted 24 December 2011 by Karen Vancampenhout

To show you that I wasn’t joking in my last blog entry, let me tell you what our month has been like. The first half, Bart had to travel to Japan for his research, while I juggled work and baby at home. Half a day after he returned, I left for Mozambique for a new project on carbon stocks in soils and vegetation while my jet-lagged husband held the fort. Finally, everyone’s home and I am happy to report that... Read more

Stereotyped, ctu.

Posted 18 December 2011 by Karen Vancampenhout

Starting work after a maternity leave is no walk in the park. Not only because sleep deprivation still takes its toll, but mostly because months of piled-up work intermingles with new deadlines, lecturing, exploding mailboxes and gouvernmentally messed-up planning of projects. To draw a long story short, I am working harder than I ever did before. Nevertheless, I am facing a new stereotype. The “now-that-you-are-a-mother-you-will-be-cutting-back-on-your-career-and-focus-on-your-family” type of thing. Where on earth did that come from?! To make matters worse, there... Read more

Mommies in Science

Posted 3 November 2011 by Karen Vancampenhout

Wonder how “combining the job with the baby” works out in reality? Well, sometimes it turns out pretty literally … ... Read more