Nobel Conference 54

Living Soil: A Universe Underfoot
October 2 & 3, 2018

Scientists and farmers alike have long recognized soil as the source of food—and thus life—for humans, but also as a living entity in its own right, a community of micro- and macro-organisms interacting with the Earth's mineral resources. As microbial and molecular science expands the microfrontiers, and as ecosystem scientists disentangle global processes, we also are discovering how terrestrial organisms depend on living soils, and in turn, they shape the life of the soil. Our Nobel Conference invites participants to consider the vast diversity and complexity of soils and the challenges we face in protecting this most fundamental resource.

What is soil health, and what processes sustain healthy soils? What interactions connect the living entities in the soil, and how do these interactions shape natural systems? How will climate change affect soils, and (how) can soils be used to mitigate rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere? How do we develop sustainable agricultural practices that will protect against soil erosion and promote soil health? How might we best promote exploration of beneficial compounds from soils? How might we re-imagine our relationship to soil culturally and socially, as well as biologically? These are just some of the questions that Nobel Conference 54 will address.


Raymond Archuleta
Conservation Agronomist
Natural Resources Conservation Service

Jack Gilbert
Professor, Department of Surgery; The Committee on Microbiology; Group Leader, Argonne National Laboratory
University of Chicago

David Montgomery
Professor of Earth and Space Sciences
University of Washington

Frank Uekotter
Reader, Environmental Humanities 
University of Birmingham

Claire Chenu
Professor of Soil Science

Rattan Lal
Professor of Soil Sciences
The Ohio State University

Suzanne Simard
Professor of Forest Ecology
University of British Columbia



  • Nobel Conference 55 (2019): Climate Change
  • Nobel Conference 56 (2020): Cancer and Biologically Derived Drugs
  • Nobel Conference 57 (2021): Big Data