Gilbert Wade Hurt, 76, passed away August 13, 2021 in Gainesville, FL after a short illness. He received a B.S. degree in Soil Science from Mississippi State University in 1968. Wade served in the Air Force as a military policeman in Japan, where he met his wife Yukie. He was predeceased by his daughter Marie, and is survived by his wife Yukie, son John, and two grandchildren.
In 1971, Wade began a long career with the USDA Soil Conservation Service, later renamed the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), where he progressed through the ranks from soil mapper to become the State Soil Scientist of Florida. He also served as NRCS’s National Leader for Hydric Soils from 1996 to 2007, culminating with his service as chair of the National Technical Committee for Hydric Soils.
Wade retired from federal service in 2007 and accepted a courtesy appointment with the University of Florida’s Soil and Water Sciences Department, where he guest-lectured, taught classes on hydric (wetland) soils, and served on graduate student committees until 2020. Wade shared his knowledge of soils and his passion for natural resources with thousands of students and practitioners, often through field courses and research conducted at the Austin Cary Forest near Gainesville.
Over his career he produced more than 160 extension bulletins, refereed journal articles, meeting abstracts, and soil survey reports among others. While most widely known for his work with hydric soils, Wade also made significant contributions in the areas of geographic information systems, pesticide application rates for different soils, and nutrient (mainly P) management on farms. He received numerous awards throughout his career including the Professional Achievement Award from the Soil and Water Conservation Society (Florida Chapter), and the Professional Service Award from the Soil Science Society of America in 2005.
Wade’s most widely recognized professional contribution will remain the development and publication of Field Indicators of Hydric Soils of the United States, a major achievement in soil science that greatly improved wetland protection and management in the U.S. In the 1980’s, Wade and co-workers conceptualized the basic processes needed to identify wetland soils and initiated research to improve the accuracy of wetland delineations in Florida. This involved identifying a set of diagnostic soil morphological features that form in response to prolonged periods of saturation, and implementing a practical system to document and delineate the presence of soil features characteristic of wetland habitats.
In 1990, the USDA assembled a National Technical Committee for Hydric Soils (NTCHS) of university faculty and federal agency staff to expand the work led by Wade in Florida for nationwide application. As a founding member of the NTCHS, Wade participated in numerous field investigations conducted across the country, compiling field indicators for virtually all hydric soils in the U.S. Each of the original 40 field indicators had to be painstakingly defined in terms of depth, thickness, organic matter percentage, and color. The research spearheaded by Wade and his team culminated in the publication of the USDA’s Field Indicators of Hydric Soils of the United States, which he co-edited from 1996 until 2018 and which is still used by all federal agencies to identify wetland boundaries throughout the U.S. Over 50,000 copies have been printed and distributed nationwide, providing a critical tool used by soil scientists, academics, and natural resource practitioners to identify and manage wetlands across the nation.
Wade dedicated his life to soil science and to finding better ways to identify hydric soils. While no one person can be credited with developing the Field Indicators of Hydric Soils of the United States, it can be said that without Wade we would not have a defensible and practicable way to identify hydric soils in the U.S. His contributions to soil science and natural resource management must not and shall not be forgotten.