Our lab's research topic is 'Environmental Biogeochemistry'. This is simply because Dr Uchida has PhD in 'Environmental Biogeochemistry' and we think we need to explain 'what we research' more in details. In this blog, we may cover recent scientific news or may explain some of the research topics we are interested in. 

個性を大事に【Looking after the personality and being yourself】

posted Jun 26, 2019, 11:14 AM by Yoshitaka Uchida






After being extremely busy from April, I started relaxing a bit now. New students who joined the team in April started showing their personalities and being themselves. I like that and I want them to grow up by looking after their personalities. 

Japanese education sectors started discussing on how to value the personalities of students. However, it is very difficult to do so. It is so much easier to teach all students using a single method and determine what is right and wrong, using a single standard. 

Some companies also claim that they do not want to employ a person with a strong personality. 

Also, the strong personality could also make an impression as "rude attitudes". Thus, the strong personality may arguably be hidden as he/she grows up. 

However, I still want to value the personality of each student. Most of the people who impacted the world had a strong personality. Also, these people often had a child-like sense of thought and attitude. I do not want to suppress these interesting characteristics and personalities of my students, because they may need these to change the world in a better way, for future, when they become adults. 

沖縄の土壌動物学会【Soil Animal Conference at Okinawa】

posted May 22, 2019, 2:42 AM by Yoshitaka Uchida   [ updated May 22, 2019, 2:47 AM ]





Soil animals are small organisms such as earthworms, millipedes and pillbugs. My colleague invited me to this strange event that scientists talk only about soil animals.

Okinawa was in the rainy season and muggy. However, I was happy to feel something different, compared to the cold Hokkaido weather.

During this small conference, I was very touched by people who "love" their research targets. They have such beautiful hearts, so they simply and actively want to know why and how these small animals live on the earth.

When I was a kid, I was dreaming of becoming an entomologist. I had so many books about insects in my house. I could name so many different insects. This visit to Okinawa reminded me of myself, dreaming of being a scientist.

新学生と忙しく学ぶ日々【New students are busy learning new things】

posted May 7, 2019, 12:00 AM by Yoshitaka Uchida




Spring has started with cherry blossoms in Hokkaido. The team welcomed many new master’s students and has been very active so far. Another student has come back from a long-term exchange study. Since the establishment of the new graduate school (the graduate school of global food resources), I started having students joining the team from their master’s courses. I am very happy to have them, but it is hard to train them since most of them change their scientific fields from their undergraduate dissertations. I am struggling to establish the training methods for them. 

Well, I consider one of the most important things for the training is to show them farms. Many agricultural students in Japan have not been visiting many farms (which is very unfortunate). Thus, I took them to the Tokachi region, in Hokkaido. With the help of farmers and a fertiliser company, students were faced with questions such as; what is agriculture? what are the issues related to agriculture? what types of research are needed? I hope students were motivated by discussing the questions here. 

Agriculture is an industry that deals with great nature. The role of agricultural scientists is huge. My students should understand that. I am very thankful for the farmers and the fertiliser company that helped us a lot during the training of my students. 

ニュージーランドサマーキャンプ【NZ Summer Camp】

posted Mar 7, 2019, 12:52 AM by Yoshitaka Uchida






Another "summer program" was on, recently. I brought a group of students to New Zealand. The students were getting out of Hokkaido winter for a few weeks, studying English, experiencing and learning NZ style farming and nature from local professors. Hokkaido University provides a small fund to do this, and the program was on for two weeks. 

The group was rather quiet this year, but I received a few positive feedback. A student told me that she learnt so much in NZ. Another student markedly improved his English. A student also said to me that he was used to learning only from textbooks, but in NZ he gained more from the real issues that professors are aiming to solve. I am pleased to hear those comments. 

Some may say that "learning in overseas" is not necessary anymore due to the development of internet and translation tools. I also heard that some have studied overseas but have not improved their discussion and communication skills. These days, our government supports studying abroad too much, and some may think that many go overseas without proper goals. 

Well, I agree with some of the statements above, but when a student comes to ask me whether she/he should study abroad, I always say "go ahead!". A reason is she/he can experience something new. The new experience will help that person when she/he thinks about the future and happiness. Also, the new experience will help us to feel differently and flexible when we are under stress or in a difficult moment. I do know that some never change even when they experience something new or also do not accept anything new and have a tough time studying overseas. It is a risk. Risks come with the new experiences anyway. 

Okay, enough for now, and here I would like to sincerely thank all of the Lincoln University staffs and professors who helped this great program. Thank you. 

これからの国々【Countries with great future】

posted Jan 27, 2019, 5:10 AM by Yoshitaka Uchida


   Recently, we have been to Zambia despite my busy schedule due to lectures and other duties in Japan. This trip was based on the project regarding heavy metal contaminations. In Zambia, we have done a lot of field studies and conducted a few important meetings. One of the goals for the field studies was to grasp the changes in the land-use in this area. 
   It is uncertain whether the changes in the land-use are related to the contamination of the land. However, our analyses of the satellite images over the last 25 years suggest that "greenness" of the earth surface has been rapidly changing in this area. The change can be related to activities such as deforestation, the development of wetlands, floods, the expansion of cities etc. 
   In the end, we had to come here to confirm our findings based on the satellite images. We were on a 4WD and drove everywhere and walked further where the 4WD could not access. 
   We are still summarising the data, but we found that this area is rapidly being developed. Forests are often cultivated into maize farms. At the same time, we saw huge wetlands expanding toward the horizon. Deep forests are also still present. We want to contribute to the sustainable development of Africa by further analysing the data.

冬の始まり【Winter has started】

posted Nov 23, 2018, 9:24 PM by Yoshitaka Uchida



私の先生(Timothy Clough先生)は、目次をしっかり作るように、とよく言っていました。今思えば、彼は極めて忙しいのに、文法はちゃめちゃな私の卒論、博士論文と、何度も何度も読んで添削して下さいました。私は今、学生たちに同じような質と量の指導を出来ているのかどうか。常に自問しています。


Sapporo city, where I am working, is looking like this now. It is too difficult to sample soils now but students are busy doing experiments. Graduating students are particularly busy. 

To be honest, I spend so much time and effort reading students’ draft theses this time of the year. Our tradition is to write thesis in English but Japanese students normally confuse and do not know where to start. I have to make sure I spend time with them, teaching them what to do step by step. 

My supervisor (Prof. Timothy Clough) told me to start with the table of contents. Remembering my student days, he spent so much time reading my thesis drafts with terrible English grammar. I ask myself whether I do the same for my students now. 

Sometimes students from outside my team tell me that their supervisors do not read their thesis drafts in details. It is very sad. I understand that the graduate thesis is an important achievement for their lives. They will remember the efforts they put into the these for the rest of their life. I was lucky to have an awesome supervisor so I vividly remember my days writing the thesis. The memory pushes me up when I have a difficult moment. 

新しいチャレンジ【New challenges】

posted Nov 8, 2018, 1:39 AM by Yoshitaka Uchida




Hokkaido is getting colder and colder. Beautiful yellow leaves of gingko trees are almost finishing off. Our team has been busy preparing data for upcoming conferences in winter and spring. New third years and an intern student joined the team, so a lot happening these days. 

I went to Germany recently and visited a few Universities and institutes. I communicated with teams studying wine and biodiversity, and photosynthesising microbes. These visits will be a start for new collaborations. I often travel overseas for conferences but often visit nearby research institutes and Universities in which I am interested. Because then I can talk to great researchers face-to-face. The visit to Germany was fruitful regarding the opportunities for new collaboration. 

Also, I am pleased to announce that we will start a new project with Germany, U.S.A., Kenya, Malawi and Zambia (and a few Japanese research institutes). I have been researching the improvement of soils in sub-Saharan Africa for the last few years, so I am looking forward to organising this great project. 

収穫の時期【Harvest season】

posted Oct 10, 2018, 4:59 AM by Yoshitaka Uchida





Autumn in Hokkaido is very short. Thus, the field researchers get very busy this time of the year. We are also running around, taking a lot of data both inside and outside of the University. This year was difficult for Hokkaido, due to bad weather, earthquake and typhoon. However, we are happy to see the fields at the harvest period, when farmers' hard works are paying off. 

We researched soil microbes in paddy soils and beet farms this year. The results are exciting so far. We look forward to doing more detailed studies. 

In the paddy field, we research natural farming. The natural farming means farming without any chemicals. Commonly speaking, soils gradually lose their nutrients, and soil fertility will decrease due to this type of farming practice. However, reports are saying natural farming is a very successful enterprise. What are the factors controlling the success of natural farming?

In the beet farm, we started studying variable organic fertilisers. It is critical to apply organic materials on soils, but the organic materials contain microbes, nutrients, water and many other things. It is difficult to predict the influence of organic materials on crops accurately. We collaborate with local farmers to do more detailed studies. 

リオデジャネイロ【Rio de Janeiro】

posted Aug 24, 2018, 7:07 PM by Yoshitaka Uchida


   I have been to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the World Congress of Soil Science. I used to live in Brazil when I was a kid. Thus, I have a lot of memories here. I enjoyed the visit and remembered my Portuguese a little bit. A conference, meeting for the scientists, is a place for us to listen to talks and associate each other. We can learn a lot about new machines and analytical progress as well.
   My goal at any conference is to make new friends. This time, I made a lot of new connections. I had a lunch with a well-known soil microbiologist based in Netherland. I also had a good meeting with Brazilian professors and met new African scientists from Niger and Ivory Coast. I have already received many emails from them. I am looking forward to collaborating with them. 
   My students who came along with me also had a similar goal. One of them had been telling me that her English is not good enough and she did not know what to talk but I think she did very well. I was impressed by her oral presentation at one of the biggest rooms at the conference. She will be one of the first graduates of the new "English only" graduate school which I was transferred a few years ago. I hope that I can educate a lot of students who can a world-renowned person, although a lot to do yet! 

植物を植えてみる【Planting some plants】

posted Jun 23, 2018, 2:11 AM by Yoshitaka Uchida


   I was in Zambia again, for a week or so. I went to Zambia to plant some plants. Plants do not grow well when soils are contaminated or when soil moisture is low. Also, human activities often decrease plants due to charcoal production (deforestation). This place is located right next to an ex-mining site and soils here show very high heavy metal contents. Also, plants suffer the extensive drying season in this area (Apr-Oct). 
   Thus, we started digging a borehole here and also set up a solar-powered pump. We sprinkle water on this land and aim to change this place to diverse plant-rich area. This project has been conducted mainly by Dr Mukumbuta in our team
   We planted a lot of lemongrasses and vetiver grass. Also, we planted some trees. We collaborate with local students at University of Zambia and testing various soil conditioners.

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