Soil and Water Conservation: An Annotated Bibliography highlights freely-available online content related to soil and water conservation. This textbook is designed for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses on soil and water conservation, as well as conservation practitioners. The textbook is also focused on conservation within the US, due to the unique history and policies that influence conservation in the US. The first goal for this textbook is to create an up-to-date resource for soil and water conservation students and practitioners. The second goal is to familiarize students with credible, technical resources in soil and water conservation. The third goal is to reduce the cost and increase the accessibility of textbooks for students. Cited resources include extension bulletins, government reports, technical bulletins, and more. Annotations for each citation describe the resource, provide a short summary of the resource and its contents, and include any additional contextual information when needed. This book is intended to be an extensive resource for conservation practices and information, but not an exhaustive resource. Thus, some conservation practices were omitted. If you have suggestions for topics, content, or resources to include in future editions of the book, please make you suggestions here.
The inspiration for developing this book is the AGRON 635 – Soil and Water Conservation course at Kansas State University. While other textbooks on soil and water conservation do exist, I found the textbooks to be outdated, too expensive, or uninteresting to the students. In discussions with the students, most did in fact buy a previously required textbook for AGRON 635. However, they freely admitted to not completing the assigned readings. I wanted to inspire more discussion in class, which I knew would require students to actually complete readings prior to class. I also wanted students to be able to better discern the credibility of technical information available to them. For a topic such as soil and water conservation, I knew there were many credible resources already available in the form of extension bulletins, government reports, and other information sources. In addition, these resources usually are concise and contain useful images and figures. Thus, I decided to create a textbook in the form of an annotated bibliography to leverage these resources and add context through annotations.
My first step in developing the book was to develop an outline of the topics I teach or wanted readily available to my students. I then reconfigured those topics into chapters and sections. From there, I set out to identify and cite resources to include. Those resources were limited only to those freely available online, were credible, and whenever possible, concise enough to be read as a reading assignment for a class. The citation style used in this textbook follows the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation Style Guide, modified to include a URL for every type of cited resource. Citations were managed using Zotero (The Corporation for Digital Scholarship, Vienna, VA). The process of fleshing out the outline was a considerable effort, and I knew developing the annotations for these resources would require an equal effort. Thus, I turned colleagues who responded to an open call for contributors. These contributors led the effort for writing annotations for many of the chapters, as well as helping complete the search for useful resources for a few chapters. Many contributors were soil and water conservation professionals and university faculty. Some contributors were students of mine who developed their own annotated bibliographies on narrow topics within the textbook as assignments and who all happily agreed to include their contributions in the textbook for the benefit of future students.
This textbook was designed with accessibility in mind. Alternative text is included with each image. Also, being an annotated bibliography, a complete URL was required for each citation to conform with the style guide and bibliography conventions. However, such URLs are not ideal for readers using screen readers. Therefore, aria-labels were applied to the HTML code for each URL to prevent each character from being spelled out by screen readers. If you find an image that is missing alternative text, or a URL that is missing a functional aria-label, please inform Colby Moorberg.
The librarians at Kansas State University, and in particular librarians from the Center for the Advancement of Digital Scholarship were essential resources throughout idea development, writing, and publication in New Prairie Press. The Open and Alternative Textbook Initiative at Kansas State provided financial support for developing this open textbook, but also helps promote awareness of open textbooks at Kansas State University. This project could not have happened without their support and influence on Open Education Resources (OER) culture at K-State. Funding from the Kansas Water Resources Institute supported the contributions from undergraduate research interns. I was also lucky enough to be an OER Research Fellow with the Open Education Group in 2018-2019. John Hilton III and my cohort of 2018-2019 OER Research Fellows provided a useful sounding board throughout the writing process. The REBUS Community was incredibly useful for questions I had while developing this textbook. Their platform and community provide an essential service to OER developers. A critical resource for developing this textbook was A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students, edited by Elizabeth Mays (2017). The book provided excellent guidance on working not just with students but with contributors of all kinds.
I thank the faculty and administration of the Department of Agronomy and the College of Agriculture at Kansas State University. I am a tenure-track faculty member in a teaching and research appointment. I am blessed that this department and institution have a culture in which scholarship and productivity of faculty in the areas of education, extension, and research are viewed as equal contributions, which makes open textbooks such as this one possible. The students of Kansas State University and other institutions are better off for it. I encourage the faculty and administrations of all institutions to take a similar approach, so that teachers can take the challenge of rising textbook costs head-on through open textbook development.