Timi Ojo, a trailblazer in soil moisture
Celebrating U of M Graduate Students
University of Manitoba graduate students do meaningful research that shows us time and again: discovery happens here. We have 47 doctoral and 90 master’s programs that give students — like Timi Ojo — the opportunity to change the way the world thinks.
Even all grown up, E. Timi Ojo still likes to play in mud. But his latest endeavours with soil — ensuring and monitoring its moisture levels — is not exactly child’s play.
The graduate student’s research at the U of M has captured the attention of Manitoba’s flood forecasters — and even NASA scientists. Working on his PhD in soil science (Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences) as part of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, Ojo develops ways to monitor soil moisture. His work helps local experts better predict spring flooding, protecting people and their property from high water. NASA also uses his findings in their studies of global climate change.
Ojo enjoys working closely with Manitoba’s agriculture industry, collecting soil samples in their fields for lab analysis. “It’s been wonderful working with farmers,” he says. “My U of M experience has been very positive. The nature of my research has enabled me to have constant interaction with many partners from all levels of government, other academic institutions and industry.”
Accurately measuring soil moisture before the ground freezes in fall is particularly important on the Canadian prairies. (If soil is saturated, overland water is more likely come spring.) Ojo is the first to do these measurements at such an intense level in flood-prone Manitoba. His complex technique — which considers the soil type and vegetation, along with the impact of weather — tells emergency personnel where to focus their efforts.
He is also collaborating with NASA in preparation for their launch of a satellite in 2015 that will serve a similar moisture-measuring function. They believe secrets found in soil may improve their understanding of climate change and weather changes worldwide.
Nigeria-born Ojo says he chose the U of M for its quality soil sciences program. Growing up, his family had a small plot of land for growing crops and vegetables that they would visit every Saturday. “That was my favorite day of the week,” he says.
Fascinated by all-things natural, Ojo says it was his undergraduate work in his home country that inspired him to more aggressively pursue this field. His plant experiments would routinely get washed away by rain, making him realize that scientists could benefit from a better understanding of the effects of weather on agriculture.
“That is what developed a passion in me,” he says.
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