Biological, physical, and chemical processes transform bedrock and sediments into soil at the Earth's surface. All terrestrial life on Earth is supported in the aptly named “critical zone” (CZ), where air, water, rock materials, and biota interact. The CZ is bounded at the top by the vegetative canopy and at the bottom by the lower limits of groundwater. Processes within this zone regulate the transformation of minerals, solubilize nutrients for biota, buffer toxins, create water pathways, and ultimately sculpt the landscape on which we live. Forty scientists from many disciplines attended a workshop recently at Pennsylvania State University to discuss needs for data and information systems to investigate the CZ.