Thursday, 6 December 2018

Dust to Dust: Redesigning Urban Life in Healthy Soil

Since the autumn of 2017, I have been co-leading an international sustainable urban design ideas competition, charrette and exhibition called: ‘Dust to Dust: Redesigning Urban Life in Healthy Soils’. 

Dust to Dust began as an urban design ideas competition. Multidisciplinary and multi-sectorial teams were encouraged to develop solutions about how the future design and configuration of cities can promote greater sustainability in the conditions of urban life. Solutions that looked to entwine the relationships between settled life, land, cultivation and soil ecosystem services – analogous of ancient Maya practices – were encouraged, as were those that demonstrated a potential for effective and realistic implementation.

A number of outline design ideas were received from around the world, which were subsequently scrutinised by a multidisciplinary panel of experts. A shortlist of six multisectorial teams with members from countries including Mexico, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Oregon USA, Ecuador and Brazil were then selected to take part in a three day, intensive workshop at The Prince’s Foundation, London with the objective being that this collaborative, progressive and visionary environment would help each team develop their original ideas. The charrette began with a series of expert-led presentations and discussions into the core themes of Dust to Dust, including the issues of waste management, food in urban development, Maya urbanism and a talk I gave on the formation of healthy soils. These talks, and their respective themes, helped to steer teams throughout the charrette. The Dust to Dust charrette succeeded in delivering not only local and region specific solutions to the challenges of sustainable urban design but a broader, coherent narrative into the ways that urban life could be redesigned in healthy soil around the world.

With the competition and charrette complete, each team spent four months refining and finalizing their sustainable urban design ideas for a three month exhibition at the world-renowned Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia. The Dust to Dust exhibition comprises panels, videographics, physical models and products. In addition to co-curating the exhibition, I commissioned the construction of two bespoke acrylic display boxes to exhibit a range of soil samples extracted from beneath a suite of urban surfaces. Each sample’s overall health is assessed using three classic soil property indicators and adopting a traffic-light scheme, I demonstrate how soils ‘out of sight and out of mind’, such as those beneath concrete pavements and tarmac roads, have the least favourable soil properties.

For me, this 15 month project has provided a valuable experience in co-ordinating an international workshop, collaborating with industrial partners and curating a museum exhibition. My involvement in Dust to Dust arose from being part of an AHRC-funded international research network called ‘Pre-Columbian Tropical Urban Life’ led by Dr Benjamin Vis (University of Kent) and Dr Christian Isendahl (University of Gothenburg) of which the exhibition forms part of its public engagement agenda. Since April 2016, TruLife has brought together 26 researchers from 9 different countries and over 21 different institutions representing fields such as urban design, architecture, Maya archaeology, ecology, soil science and industrial engineering. In addition to the curation of this exhibition, I am working with the network on a number of papers and a book chapter.

The Dust to Dust exhibition is now on public display for three months at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art. More information can be found here:

Press Releases:


STARS Website News Article (5th December 2018)  


BBC Radio Norfolk Interview (6th December 2018)




Friday, 2 November 2018

PEDcast- October 2018

BSSS National ECR Rep, Dan Evans, presents the monthly PEDcast; a podcast for Soil Science across the UK and beyond. In this programme, Dan looks back at a conference on Soil Sustainability. Regular guest contributor Nick Skinner has more words of wisdom for Early Career Researchers. Dan has a preview of some upcoming soil-related events and Malika Mezeli, a STARS student, talks about her research on Phosphorus. And, in the first of a six part series, the PEDcast brings you the first episode of 'Stories from the Soil', an educational series of videos produced by Cool Planet and the Future of Agriculture about soil health management in the USA.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Dan's PhD vs. Dan's PhDiary

I would like to apologise to readers of this blog for the silence in communication over the last month. Dan's PhD is tugging at war with Dan's PhDiary and the former is winning more of my time at the moment! Normal service should resume shortly. 

Thursday, 6 September 2018

PEDcast- August 2018

BSSS National ECR Rep, Dan Evans, is back with his monthly PEDcast; a podcast for Soil Science across the UK. In this special programme, he presents from Rio in Brazil, as he attends the World Congress of Soil Science. There will be photographs and videos from the event, and a look ahead to the World Congress in Glasgow, in 2022. Meanwhile, Dan previews some of the upcoming events and job opportunities in the UK and Jeremy LeLean from the Soil Security Programme reports on an event at the Royal Society. There's some Soil Poetry and Professor Mark Reed is back, with a tip of achieving genuine research impact.

Monday, 6 August 2018

I am currently away on holiday, but coming soon on 'Dan's PhDiary'...

1) A report on my attendance at the World Congress of Soil Science held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

2) News on my long-awaited Soil Formation Rates.

3) Looking ahead to Autumn and Winter 2018 as I begin the third and final year of my PhD.

4) The BSSS Annual Conference and next year's Early Career Researcher conference.

Friday, 6 July 2018

PEDcast June 2018

BSSS National ECR Rep, Dan Evans, presents the sixth edition of a monthly PEDcast; a podcast for Soil Science across the UK. In the programme, there's a look back on this year's Open Farm Sunday. Jeremy LeLean is behind the scenes at the Natural History Museum with the ABC of Soil. Professor Chris Collins shares his thoughts as Director of the Soil Security Programme. Nick Skinner from Poppyfish People Development discusses how scientists can ask better questions in meetings. And we take a look at the GROW Observatory.