science education and outreach team

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

MO DIRT Soil Health Survey Training: Forest Park, St. Louis, MO

Event date(s): Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Location: Dennis & Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center, 5595 Grand Drive in Forest Park, St. Louis, MO 63112


MO DIRT - Soil Health Survey Training for Master Naturalists - Sedalia

Event date(s): Saturday, September 17, 2016
Location: Sedalia, MO


MO DIRT will offer a soil health survey training to Missouri Master Naturalists during their statewide advanced training event "Where the Ozarks Meet the Prairies." For more information, visit the event page on the MO DIRT website.

MO DIRT Soil Health Survey Trainings in Kansas City

Event date(s): Wednesday, April 27, 2016 to Thursday, April 28, 2016
Location: University of Missouri-Kansas City, Department of Geosciences


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

                
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

 

Tags: high school, K-12, science fair, first place, Monica Malone, St. Louis, Academy of Science, mo dirt, soil science, science education and outreach team, Science Education and Outreach, announcement, feature story, highlight