mo dirt

MO DIRT Soil Health Training and Citizen Science Opportunities - Springfield & Kirksville

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

For more information, visit the MO DIRT website Event Page. Register here or e-mail MODirtatdanforthcenter [dot] org.


Announcing the Next MO DIRT Soil Health Survey Training! Fenton, MO

Friday, June 10, 2016

For more information, visit the MO DIRT website Event Page.

Register at MODirt [at] danforthcenter [dot] org


MO DIRT Will Be in Kansas City on April 27 & 28 to Conduct Soil Health Survey Training

Monday, April 11, 2016

You are invited to the next soil health survey training sessions in Kansas City, MO. This training is part of MO DIRT, a state wide citizen science initiative. We hope you can join us as well as your colleagues and or students! Please share this information with others.
If you are interested in this project but cannot attend either of the two sessions, we want to let you know that we are continuously offering training in different locations. Please let us know of your interest in the soil health surveys.

Digging dirt pays off for one St. Louis high school student

Monday, March 14, 2016

Monica speaking to judges one-on-one about her research Presenting to the panel of judges
Many of us run for the sink when we get our hands dirty, but not Monica Malone who loves plunging her hands into a pile of rich soil.
“I find the layers, or horizons, in the soil and the differences in texture very interesting,” admits Malone.
Her passion hit pay dirt recently when the senior at Horton Watkins Ladue High School took home first place at the Academy of Science St. Louis Science Fair this past February for her experiment on soil microbes. The award came with a $3,000 college scholarship and an all-expense-paid trip to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, AZ, this May.
For her research, Malone studied differences in the diversity of microbial communities in tilled versus non-tilled soils. Tilling, which involves mechanically preparing an agricultural field by breaking the ground, is thought to disrupt the microorganisms in the soil and adversely affect soil health. No-till, in contrast, is thought to provide a more favorable environment for soil microbes and thus contribute to the health of the soil.
To test if the microbial communities were affected by tilling or not, Malone collected soil samples from various sites and then analyzed the samples for nutrient content, pH, active carbon, and other characteristics. She also extracted DNA from individual microbe colonies found in the soil samples.
“Through sequencing, I found a greater diversity of soil microbes in the no-till soil,” said Malone. 
She then evaluated the difference in microbial diversity using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), a method that isolates total microbial genome DNA to compare DNA banding patterns between till and no-till soil cores. Results showed that the microbial communities in tilled soil were less diverse than in non-tilled soil.
The finding adds to a growing body of evidence against tilling as a beneficial agricultural practice. Tilling already has been shown to contribute to soil erosion and release of CO2 into the environment, contributing to global warming.
“My research helps prove that tilling soil also disrupts the natural microbiome in the soil. It is possible that many beneficial microbes may be lost when tilling occurs,” she said.
Malone conducted her research at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, where she has been doing research for nearly three years with her mentor Dr. Terry Woodford-Thomas. As Leader of the Science Education & Outreach Team for the Missouri Transect Project, Woodford-Thomas initiated Missourians Doing Impact Research Together (MO DIRT), a citizen science project focused on soil health.
“I became interested in soil science after Dr. Woodford-Thomas pulled a bunch of soil cores and brought them into the lab,” recalls Malone. “Her excitement about soil science inspired me to learn more about soil science in general.”
Malone entered her research project into the Honors Division, which consisted of two rounds of competition – a one-on-one interview with judges and a 10-minute presentation to a group of judges followed by a 5-minute Q&A. Malone admits she was at first nervous.
“But as soon as I started to present, I felt much more confident. I was able to clearly convey my message and answer all of the judges’ questions,” she said.
Malone will be recognized at the Academy of Science 2016 Outstanding Scientist Awards Dinner at the Chase Park Plaza on April 7, 2016. 

For more information about the Academy of Science St. Louis Science Fair, visit:
The Academy of Science – St. Louis
St. Louis, MO 63110
(314) 591-0310

Soil Health Survey Training in Columbia - March 3, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

MO DIRT and Missouri EPSCoR want to invite you to participate in a training in Columbia to conduct soil health surveys. You can choose to attend the morning session or the afternoon session.
When: Thursday, March 3rd. Morning session 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. Afternoon session 1:00 to 4:00 pm.
Where: Room 322 Tucker Hall Building. GPS address: University of Missouri, Division of Biological Sciences, Tucker Hall, Columbia, MO 65211

Parking: See the map. There are two options for parking:

  1. Visitor parking lot west of the Tucker Hall building. It has parking meters that cost $1 per hour up to 8 hours. It is close to the Tucker Hall building but there is no guarantee that you will find a spot.
  2. Virginia avenue parking garage south of the Tucker Hall building, which is a 5 minute walk from the building. You will be mailed a day pass to park anywhere in the garage. Send me your mailing address if you need the day pass.

Who: Adults and teenagers (educational leaders, teachers, students, landowners, etc.) interested in soil science.
What to bring: Paper, pen, positive energy, and a camera (optional). We will be outside for a short period of time to show you the setup of a survey site, so be prepared for the cold weather.
What you will get: Training on how to set up and conduct soil health surveys, and if you decide to join the project, you will receive a backpack with a soil kit, and a manual.
Cost: Free
Contact Sandra Arango-Caro at the Danforth Center (SArango-Caro [at] danforthcenter [dot] org?subject=MO%20DIRT%3A%20Soil%20Health%20Survey%20Training" rel="noreferrer">SArango-Caro [at] danforthcenter [dot] org) if you are interested in participating.  If you cannot attend this training, we will be offering training across the state in the future. Please also share this information with others.
We hope you can join us, as well as your students and colleagues!
Read below for an introduction to MO DIRT, Missouri Transect, and soil health surveys:

MO DIRT - Missourians Doing Impact Research Together, has two main goals: (1) to further educate citizens on the societal importance of healthy soils and (2) to recruit as many individuals as possible to examine the current properties of our state soils and how these are being influenced by land use and management, as well as microclimate and climate change (see attached brochure). This project is funded by the National Science Foundation under the federal EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) initiative. Called “The Missouri Transect,” this working group of scientists, educators and community advocates will be generating data and models to better understand how climate influences agricultural and native plant systems, and how Missouri communities are affected and respond to this phenomenon over the course of five years. The leading institution for The Missouri Transect is the University of Missouri-Columbia, which is collaborating with eight other academic institutions including the Donald Danforth Plant Center, the Saint Louis Science Center, Saint Louis University, Lincoln University, Washington University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, and the University of Missouri at Kansas City and St. Louis.
Within MO DIRT we have a program on soil health surveys. This surveys are conducted by teenagers and adults, working as individuals or in small teams, in study sites of their choosing representative of natural systems (prairie, forest, woodland) or agricultural system (grassland, crop fields, animal fields). Urban or suburban gardens are not included. The sites are monitored monthly from February to November over the course of several years. You can join the soil surveys at any time. The data generated from the soil surveys include measurements of physical, chemical, and biological indicators of soil health. These data will provide baseline information to be shared through an open access on-line website. This electronic tool will allow participants to learn about data being deposited by others across the state, and how the data will be validated for use by scientists, as well as teachers for classroom learning, all for the endpoint of better tracking of how soil health is being affected across the state for long term prospects.
During the training, volunteer citizens (teachers, high school students, land owners, youth groups, etc.) will learn about soil science and how to monitor soil health by measuring soil physical, chemical, and biological indicators. Participants will also learn about data collection and data management. If you are a teacher, take into consideration that your high school students can attend the training to, even if you cannot attend.

The training last 3 hours and is free. If you decide to join the soil surveys project you will receive a manual and a soil kit.

2015 is the International Year of Soils

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

2015 has been designated the International Year of Soils (IYS) by the UN General Assembly (A/RES/68/232).  The IYS aims to be a platform for raising awareness of the importance of soils for food security and essential eco-system functions. 

The UN has declared 5 pillars of action:

  1. Promote sustainable management of soil resources for soil protection, conservation and sustainable productivity

  2. Encourage investment, technical cooperation, policy, education awareness and extension in soil

  3. Promote targeted soil research and development focusing on identified gaps and priorities and synergies with related productive, environmental and social development actions

  4. Enhance the quantity and quality of soil data and information: data collection (generation), analysis, validation, reporting, monitoring and integration with other disciplines

  5. Harmonization of methods, measurements and indicators for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources   

You can contribute to the International Year of Soils

The Missouri Transect education and outreach participants have developed a “citizen science” project called Missourians Doing Impact Research Together (MO DIRT).  MO DIRT will address the interplay between climate and soil that has an impact on global carbon cycling.  Citizen scientist volunteers will collect and analyze soil samples and record meteorological information in their communities.  The results will be sent to Missouri Transect climate, soil, plant and environmental scientists to enhance real-time data from around the state.

To get involved with MO DIRT or for more information, contact Dr. Terry Woodford-Thomas, tthomas [at] danforthcenter [dot] org" rel="noreferrer">tthomas [at] danforthcenter [dot] org.

World Soil Day Events

To celebrate World Soil Day on December 5 and to launch the International Year of Soils 2015, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held an event at their headquarters in Rome with invited guests — from scientists to diplomats — from around the world.

World Soil Day was celebrated worldwide this year as seen in the map below:

FAO summarized the significance of soil for human and environmental health:

Soil is the basis for food, feed, fuel and fibre production and for services to ecosystems and human well-being. It is the reservoir for at least a quarter of global biodiversity, and therefore requires the same attention as above-ground biodiversity. Soils play a key role in the supply of clean water and resilience to floods and droughts. The largest store of terrestrial carbon is in the soil so that its preservation may contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation. The maintenance or enhancement of global soil resources is essential if humanity’s need for food, water, and energy security is to be met.