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Occasional grants for ambitious young scientists without funds

Erin and a friend during the conference

As an agricultural engineer with an environmentalist mind, I always try to understand what is actually going on under my feet. Of particular interst, in agriculture it does matter to know how many other species of insects are dying after pesticide applications or how many microorganisms are being disturbed when the soil is tilled. Not knowing about those consequences or not assessing them carefully have made us silence the spring in past and probably having our pollinators lost nowadays.

Currently, i investigate the impact of some soil amendments on soil resident fungi. Fungi are of great importance due to decomposition/degradation activities carried out by them. They may be considered masters of decomposition along with several other microorganisms. And all together, they help ecosystem function well. When amendments applied into soils, they are known to mostly cause physical, chemical and biological changes. Soil organic matter, in particular, plays an important role on regulation of those changes by balancing soil structure, water holding capacity, adsorption of pollutants, storage of plant nutrients, buffering pH and temperature changes and so on. Humic substances on the other hand are complex parts of soil organic matter still being studied.

This September in Bologna, I had a chance to present my work titled ‘Effects of single and combined applications of biochar and humic acid on the growth of two ligninolytic fungi’ in the XXXIII CONVEGNO NAZIONALE Società Italiana di Chimica Agraria - SICA organized jointly by the  Italian Chapter of International Humic Substances Society and Italian Society of Agricultural Chemistry. It was not the congress that made me submit this post rather it was the support that is provided to young scientists/researchers by the organizing society. My participation was supported by IHSS – Italian Chapter along with other two young participants as I was an awardee of IHSS TRAVEL AWARD which eventually covered my participation fee, hostel and travel costs.

Besides that, 6 young participants were supported by Italian Society of Agricultural Chemistry as well. Moreover, IHSS is not the only society that supports youth in congress by awards. The European Geosciences Union – EGU –   is also known to provide support to early career scientists each year during EGU General Assembly. And besides those, there as suggestions to have a look at COST actions to allow for participation of  training schools with scholarships. COST provides cooperation among European scientists however applications are open for all when there is an upcoming training school.

It seems those societies/organizations understood that in a world where youth have all the energy but don’t have that much of funds, sometimes small amounts are enough to have them among participants of conferences. More especially when costs of attending a congress sum up to almost a monthly rent for a room or more than 20-30% of total monthly scholarships for PhD. These awards/scholarships set an example for others how youth can be supported!

If you’re a young scientists/student working on topics related to soil organic matter please have a look at the website of International Humic Substances Society and stay tuned for next international congresses that will be held in Japan next year. Travel awards applications will be opened soon!  Please also visit ( for 2016 general assembly in Vienna and - ( for further information about COST actions.

 Happy International Year of Soils !