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The College of Applied Science and Technology (CAST) at Illinois State University is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year! This series, CAST 50×50, is designed to highlight 50 faculty, staff, students, alumni, and organizations within CAST that make the college special. These notable people will tell you that every day in CAST is a great day to be a Redbird!

This week we are featuring Professor Clay Robinson from the Department of Agriculture, who is known by his students and colleagues as Dr. Dirt.

Q: What is your position within CAST?

A: Associate professor of soil science, Department of Agriculture.

Q: Give me a couple of fun facts about agriculture.

A: Of course:

  1. Soil is the foundation for all terrestrial ecosystems, and because it is always underfoot, it is almost always overlooked, and too often underappreciated.
  2. Without soil, everyone would be hungry, naked, and homeless!
  3. Only about 3 percent of the land (not covered by water) surface of the earth is used to produce all the food, fiber, and much of the lumber required to feed, clothe, and house all the 7.5 billion people on the planet.
  4. There are more microbes in a tablespoon (15 milliliters) than there are people on Earth.

Q: What snack is always in your desk drawer?

A: Trail mix (nuts and dried fruit), Clif Bars, Larabars, or PowerBars.

Q: Your family was asked to describe you, what would they say?


  1. He loves the outdoors and outdoor activities: cycling, hiking, backpacking. This love of the outdoors is one reason he became an agronomist, then a soil scientist.
  2. He appreciates beauty in the natural world and looks for it on many scales. He has been known to make sudden stops on the road to look at a plant or a soil in a road cut, to climb on the top of the vehicle and take a picture, or to collect unique colors of soil to use in his soil paintings.
  3. He is an amateur photographer who uses the eye of the camera to record the beauty and finesse he sees in the natural world, and on his son’s cross country and track teams.
  4. He is a man of deep faith who finds great delight in the daily reading and studying of the Bible.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job/most rewarding part of your job?

A: I enjoy sharing knowledge and pursuing answers to new questions, and am always looking for new and better ways to do things. But even more, I want to expose students to world that is bigger than the one they have experienced; taking students to see new places and soils and agronomic practices is always rewarding.

Think you know someone that should be featured? Contact us!