Life on this planet requires four main ingredients: air, solar radiation, water, and soil. The critical zone is the interface where these four constituents come together and interact. As such, understanding and properly managing this thin region of our planet’s surface is quite possibly the greatest task set before us as humans. The fate of the critical zone is our fate, for in the words of Oregon State’s James Cassidy – rock star and soil scientist extraordinaire – “YOU ARE SOIL!” The water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the very minerals and nutrients in our body all have passed through the soil regolith countless numbers of times. And so with this mantra in mind, we are building the Critical Zone Research Lab here at Virginia Tech to examine and better understand the linkages and processes which occur in the critical zone and which maintain life as we know it.