Mineralogical, Textural, and Infiltration Capacity Analysis of Athletic Field Soils: A Metadisciplinary Study for Turf Management at Hope College

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Jonathan Peterson, Hope College

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This research was supported by the Hope College Grounds Department and the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences (GES).


Collaborative research occurs in many forms. While interdisciplinary projects are common, this presentation reports on a metadisciplinary collaboration at Hope College. Work involves horizontal integration of subject matter, generating data of interest to geologists, chemists, environmental scientists, and engineers. Research also involves horizontal and vertical integration of personnel with different educational experience and occupational roles.For example, a rising high school senior worked under the guidance of a rising college senior. Both students collaborated with an assistant professor and a full professor, as well as staff from the Grounds Department.

Healthy turf is an essential requirement for a safe and effective natural athletic field. Optimized irrigation is a necessary part of field management. To that end, the team collected and analyzed soil data including infiltration capacity, grain size distribution, fine particle distribution, mineralogy, and bulk adsorption behavior for pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Several techniques were used including soil boring, sieving, XRD, double-ring infiltrometer tests, laser particle counting, column and batch experiments, and subsequent LC/MS analysis of attendant solutions. The study included 10 different turf fields representing a range of manicuring.

Some results, for example, show that standard uniformity coefficients and porosities do not adequately predict infiltration capacity; but rather, particle size distribution of the very fine materials (<37μm), is more important to infiltration behavior. Also, preliminary XRD data indicate that specific mineralogical differences of the clay-size fraction between the most manicured and least manicured turfs may play a key role in PPCP transport.

This project is characterized by different outcomes for different end-users. Infiltration capacity and textural data are useful for the Grounds Department. As the use of treated wastewater for irrigation of turf areas becomes a reality, mineralogical adsorption data on PPCPs in soils will be essential for scientists and engineers engaged in environmental policy making.

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