Marta Cattin

Soil Protection Advisor

Marta Cattin

Soil Protection Advisor

Which organisation do you work for?

Environment Agency

A day in the life of…

My day-to-day job varies significantly based on the tasks I am assigned. I can spend a full day in the field talking to farmers, collecting soil samples and doing VESS assessment, and the next day I am on a train to London for a formal project meeting. I spend quite some time on managing and Improving research projects as well. My job is never boring!

How does your job fit within Soil Science?

I have a PhD in soil science and I have been studying soil ecosystem services and application of materials to land since 2017, thus my scientific background helped me a lot throughout my career in the Environment Agency. I use my scientific knowledge to understand how to best deliver soil projects inside the Environment Agency, and when I talk to farmers, I translate soil science into a language that they can understand. This creates a lot of engagement between me and farmers, they love the technicality of soil science (when it’s easy to understand)!

Why is this an interesting area to work in?

Soils are historically perceived as just a “medium” where you grow food and/or a dumping ground where you need to dispose of your organic manures. My job allows me to work towards changing these perceptions and increase the awareness around soil health.

Why Soil Science?

Soil science is punk, there is so much to learn and to explore! How can you not like it?!

What did you study?

I started my academic career by studying Environmental Chemistry during my undergraduate degree, and then I specialised on assessing and remediating the environmental impacts associated with the agriculture/livestock sectors during my MSc. I did my undergraduate and master’s in Italy at the University of Padua, and then I moved to the UK to do my PhD in Soil Science at Lancaster University.

What has your career path been so far?

I joined the EA in April 2022 just after I submitted my PhD thesis. I found a job as Soil Health Advisor for Farmers as part of an EU LIFE project called WADER. The job aimed to engage with farmers and incentivised them to look after their soil health, in order to reduce the nutrient losses to the watercourses in the catchment area. The job was just perfect for me, my PhD was relevant to soil health, and I had a CASE partner who was a local farmer, so I knew what I had to do.  I then decided to move to a National Role and I got promoted to Soil Protection Advisor in January 2024.

What is the best thing about your job?

This is not just “a job” for me, it’s my passion. I love soil and agriculture, thus it doesn’t feel like a job to me.

What skills, abilities and personal attributes are essential to success in your job/this field?

Determination, perseverance, confidence and ability to make mistakes without being too hard on you.

What advice would you offer to young people interested in a career in soil science?

Invest in your education, don’t be afraid to ask question, be curious and shadow people that have more experience than you.

Can you recommend other journals, magazines or professional associations which would be helpful for professional development?

I travel a lot and I tend to follow soil science podcasts. My favourite one is the Regenerative Agriculture Podcast by John Kempf. The guest speakers are mainly soil scientists but he interviews also farmers, thus is a good blend of information.

If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? If not, what would you change?

When I was doing my PhD in soil science (at some point) I hated it and I asked my self the question of “why am I doing it?” like 100000 times.  Now I can see it was worth it because I wouldn’t change a thing!

Tell us one thing about yourself that not many people know.

I used to run an enterprise when I was at university called “Edible Campus”. I used to grow fruit and vegetables and sell it to the community with the help of the volunteers.

Is there anything else that you would like to share relating to your work in soil science?

I am currently running a couple of 3-year field experiments as part of WADER, which I am using as demonstration projects for farmers to come and learn from. I am aiming to publish the data after 2026.

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