Come late September, the verdant Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia will welcome Jon Hempel, Wisconsin’s State Soil Scientist. Hempel, who has held the soil scientist position here since September 2000 will become director of the National Geospatial Development Center at West Virginia University in Morgantown. The center is a newly established joint venture reseach center of the US Dept of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the university.
When Jon took the reins from previous State Soil Scientist Ken Lubich in 2000, NRCS was in the early stages of the state’s digital soils mapping initiative, a cooperative funding venture between the state and NRCS. This six year effort, when completed in 2006, will have converted scores of county soil maps to digital format, and completely mapped, for the first time, ten northwestern counties.
Under Jon’s guidance the field work, mapping, and digital conversion have all stayed on schedule in this $12-million project. Currently, only Juneau and Dane Counties are awaiting final certification. Of the 10 counties in the northwest corner of the state, Taylor, Washburn and Burnett are certified and Bayfield will be certified in 2005. The remaining 6 counties will be completed in 2006. When all are done in several years, Wisconsin will be one of only a handful of states with border-to-border digital soils maps.
Dave Hvizdak, presently field coordinator for the Northwest 10 counties, will become acting State Soil Scientist until a permanent replacement is chosen later this fall. The state soil scientist is an employee of the NRCS an agency that works with private land owners to protect and conserve natural resources.