During quarantine, while people have been turning to arts and crafts to entertain themselves indoors, ecology professor Yamina Pressler has been recognized by Smithsonian Magazine for her work developing “responsibly harvested” soil-based water colors with her friend and colleague, Dr. Karen Vaughn at the University of Wyoming. 

Through her art, and Instagram, Pressler says that she hopes people will realize how important soils are to the environment.

Pressler’s Instagram account @wonderofsoil was created to show the more artistic side of soils and bring the soil science community together.

Yamina Pressler | Courtesy

“I was excited about the work that I was doing and very excited about soils, and I wanted to share that with people,” Pressler said. “I think that the internet is a great way to be able to do that.”

Pressler became more active on social media and her website—  where she has been posting her research and lessons since the start of the pandemic — so that it was easier to share with colleagues all around the world who were also struggling with the transition to online learning.

“I am also an extreme extrovert,” Pressler said. “I love meeting, talking to new people, learning from others, and the internet really broadened my ability to do that with lots of other people that I may not have met in person.”

In addition to her online work, Pressler has had to restructure her normally very hands-on labs for virtual learning. Pressler says that the transition to online has made it harder for her to impress upon the importance of soils with her students.

“[Soils] are very field based,” Pressler said. “Which means we’re outside looking at soils literally getting our hands dirty and it is hard to replicate that in an online setting.”

Pressler said she has had to work on her video editing skills to bring her classes on virtual field trips. 

“I essentially take my students on virtual field trips where I will go out to a site and I kind of pretend like I’m a host of a nature show, and my students are the audience,” Pressler said.

Pressler also said that the community of in-person classes is something that she has realized the value of during virtual learning. She has been utilizing breakout rooms during her classes to try to build a sense of community. 

“Right now it’s really important that we are all kind of in this together and continue to get to know each other and build this scientific and learning community that we have here, even though we cannot be in the same physical space,” she said.

Between her Instagram, art and her website and putting her work online, Pressler is making up for what cannot be shared about her field of study in-person. However, she is still looking forward to being able to teach her labs in-person in the future. 

“I am excited to be able to take students back into the field whenever that is deemed appropriate, but for now I’m happy that we can still continue to learn about soils,” Pressler said.

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