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Recognition for Soil and Plant Scientists

by Lynnette Harris


Bruce Bugbee
Scott Jones

Professors Bruce Bugbee and Scott Jones have been named fellows of their respective professional societies, among each organizations’ top honors.

Bugbee was one of just 14 scientists honored as Fellows of the American Society of Agronomy at the society’s annual conference in November, and Jones is one of 12 who will be awarded the title during the Soil Science Society of America’s conference in January.

“Being named fellow in our professional societies is among the highest honors for our faculty,” said Professor Paul Johnson, head of USU’s Department of Plants, Soils and Climate. “It says loudly that Bruce and Scott are among the best in their disciplines.”

Bugbee teaches plant nutrition, environmental instrumentation and plant physiology. His research focuses on growing crops in controlled environments, such as in green houses and growth chambers with artificial light, soil media and climate controls. It includes work with NASA on problems of plant production aboard spacecraft and to sustain longer-term human exploration of space. He is an author of more than 340 articles in scientific journals, 12 books or book chapters and has given a number of invited talks at professional meetings and at other universities. He was also a presenter at a USU TEDx event with a talk titled, Turning Water into Food.

Bugbee is a past chair of the ASA’S Crop Physiology Division, received USU’s top research honor, the D. Wynn Thorne Career Research Award, in 2016, and was named the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences’ 2015 Distinguished Professor, in addition to other USU awards for teaching and mentoring graduate students. In 2012, Bugbee was awarded the Utah Governor’s Medal for Science. In working out limitations and difficulties with existing sensors used in his research, Bugbee began modifying equipment, such as volt meters, and turned his garage workshop tinkering into founding Apogee Instruments in 1996, a company that currently employs more than 30 people and sells environmental sensors to scientists worldwide.

Learn more about one of Bugbee’s passions, producing food for space exploration, in an essay titled The Martian: Farming on Mars is Not Science Fiction that he was invited to write for Huffington Post regarding the science involved in the film, The Martian.

Jones’ work focuses on environmental soil physics and developing cutting-edge measurement and modeling approaches to improve our understanding of soil properties and processes in agricultural and environmental research. His current research involves evaporation from soils, microgravity’s effects on supplying water to plant roots aboard spacecraft, greenhouse gas emissions from porous media, and developing sensors to measure and monitor soil properties. He was part of a team of scientists who developed experiments that were conducted aboard the International Space Station in 2007. Jones has also flown multiple experiments that required periods of microgravity—a state achieved for 20-plus seconds at a time—aboard a NASA research aircraft commonly known as the “Vomit Comet.”

Jones previously served as chair of the Soil Science Society of America’s Soil Physics and Hydrology Division. He also chaired the United States Department of Agriculture’s Western Regional Soil Physics Technical Committee. Jones was honored as USU’s College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences 2012 Faculty Researcher of the Year and as the college’s 2008 Undergraduate Mentor of the Year.

He has authored 150 scientific abstracts and more than 110 journal articles, five books or book chapters, and numerous articles and technical papers. Jones serves as associate department head of PSC and was recently named director of USU’s new International Partnership in Agriculture, Climate and Environment program that develops collaborations among faculty members at USU and several research universities in Taiwan. Learn more about Jones’ work and USU’s soil physics research group here.