10th - 14th June

Summer School Pokljuka 2019 summary

by Ana Čebin


Our Links4Soils Summer School is over and it went beyond our expectations. We learned a lot but we also had a lot of fun and made some new friends.

The first day of our school was quite a logistic challenge, but we managed to deliver the last professors, Dr. Michele Freppaz and Dr. Silvia Stanchi on time, despite the obstacles on the road!

Pokljuka is a remarkable place, it offers many different opportunities: mountaineering, cycling and cross-country skiing in the winter. It is a perfect starting point to climb Triglav – the highest mountain in Slovenia.
Pokljuka plateau is 20 km long and almost as wide. We were staying in Rudno polje at 1344 m above the sea level, where there was plenty of fresh air and the temperatures were much more pleasant.

In the afternoon of our first day, we divided the students into four groups, with a little help of a great teacher, Renata Capuder Mermal (from Gimnazija in srednja šola Rudolfa Maistra Kamnik). The four groups: Forest, Agriculture, Sports and Nature, were set to explore different roles of soil on Pokljuka.

Lectures were given by some of the best soil experts and the topics were all very interesting. Monday’s introductory lectures were titled “Why soil matters” by dr. Borut Vrščaj, “Mountain Soils” by dr. Michele Freppaz and “Key soil properties” by dr. Silvia Stanchi. Throughout the week we have listened to some other interesting lectures: dr. Michele Freppaz was talking about “Soil, snow and avalanches”, dr. Silvia Stanchi gave lecture on “Soil threats in the Alps” and Heitor Mancini Teixeira, MSc talked about “Agroecology”.

Tuesday was a field day! We were exploring the soils of Pokljuka and got our hands dirty – each group dug out a soil profile and described its properties with the mentors: dr. Borut Vrščaj, dr. Michele Freppaz, dr. Silvia Stanchi and Heitor Mancini Teixeira, MSc. In the next few days, we returned and presented the profiles to other groups. We found out that the soil was very different in different locations. We were most interested in how land use affects the properties of the soil. We were able to see that due to the different uses of the land, the soil was different just a few meters apart! We determined the parent material and individual horizons, pH, soil colour, texture, structure and consistency, and evaluated the organic matter and relief of the land.

In the afternoon, we had 4 other field workshops with experts from Slovenia Forest Service and Agricultural Institute of Slovenia. At “Soil biology” by dr. Irena Bertoncelj, we learned which organisms live in the soil and compared deciduous forest with the coniferous one. Workshop “Forest production” was mentored by dr. Aleš Poljanec and dr. Andreja Nève Repe. We measured the tree height and learned how to define the age of a tree. At “Ecosystem services”, dr. Tina Simončič talked about all the positive functions of the forest and showed us different point of views to look at it. At workshop “Soils and human needs”, dr. Borut Vrščaj taught us all the benefits of the soil but also reminded us how precious it is and in which way we can preserve it. Each group created a poster and presented the fresh knowledge to others.

In the evenings, we relaxed a little bit and had some fun. On Tuesday, we had a competition with cars that we made ourselves and on Wednesday, we played Links4Soils Games without borders. It was awesome!

Since Triglav National Park is all about nature, we also went on a hike to Uskovnica mountain hut. During the walk, Ludwig Pertl, DI gave a lecture on soil productivity, worms and why the worms are so important for the future. Ludwig is an inspiration for the Links4soils project. With his work, he was able to change many minds and show how the forest should be treated. Markt Kaufering is his playground to all his experiments and demonstration to his work.

On Thursday our knowledge was tested in a Soil quiz, where the first prize was 3 kilograms of Slovenian chocolate Gorenjka! Our moderators Francesca Zoia and Lorenz Wohlwend and mentors Odoardo ZeccaRenata Capuder Mermal, Uršula Dačič in Rafaela Kožlakar from Liechtensteinisches Gymnasium Vaduz, Institut Agricole Régional, Gimnazija in srednja šola Rudolfa Maistra Kamnik and ISILTP Verres helped and guided the students. All the teams were very good and it was hard to win!
We also selected and awarded photograph of the week, which was presented by a student of Gimnazija in srednja šola Rudolfa Maistra Kamnik.

On the last day we made a summary of everything we’ve learned. We thanked the organizers of the Summer school, especially Jurka Lesjak, MSc (from Agricultural institute of Slovenia) and wrote a message for FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN), ESP (European Soil Partnership), GSP (Global Soil Partnership) and MA (Managing Authority Salzburg), in which we presented our view on the soil topic.

And all of a sudden, it was time to pack, exchange contacts and say goodbye to new friends and breathtaking nature of Pokljuka plateau.

We are so proud to see how much the students have learned in this one awesome week of soil! Some of them (from Gimnazija in srednja šola Rudolfa Maistra Kamnik) were invited to share their experience on a radio show Gymnasium on Radio Prvi!

The recording of the show is available here (in Slovenian language).

And we want to thank you all for making Links4Soils Summer School possible and so amazing! It will stay in our memory for a long time!