soil health

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

Soil Health Survey Training in Springfield

Event date(s): Thursday, April 7, 2016
Location: Glendale High School, 2727 S. Ingram Mill Road, Springfield, MO 65804

Soil Health Survey Training in Columbia

Event date(s): Thursday, March 3, 2016
Location: Room 322, Tucker Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211

You are invited to participate in the next MO DIRT* training to conduct soil health surveys in Columbia. 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 1-4 pm.
Where: Room 322 Tucker Hall Building. GPS address: University of Missouri, Division of Biological Sciences, 105 Tucker Hall, Columbia, MO 65211

Parking: 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" 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!

*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.

Citizen Science 2015 Conference

San Jose, CA, February 11-12, 2015

Written by Sandra Arango-Caro

March 11, 2015

The Citizen Science 2015 was the inaugural conference of the Citizen Science Association (CSA). More than 600 people from 25 countries participated. Anyone involved in citizen science was invited to attend the conference. Attendees included citizen science participants, researchers, project leaders, educators, technology specialists, evaluators, and others – representing many disciplines including astronomy, molecular biology, human and environmental health, psychology, linguistics, environmental justice, biodiversity, conservation biology, public health, genetics, engineering, cyber technology, gaming, and more – at multiple levels of expertise.

The six main themes of the conference were:

  • Tackling Grand Challenges and Everyday Problems with Citizen Science
  • Broadening Engagement to Foster Diversity and Inclusion
  • Making Education and Lifelong Learning Connections (K-12, university, informal)
  • Digital Opportunities and Challenges in Citizen Science
  • Research on and Evaluation of the Citizen Science Experience
  • Best Practices for Designing, Implementing, and Managing Citizen Science Projects and Programs

Sandra Arango-Caro (right) speaking with another Citizen Science Conference participant about the MO DIRT program.

The MO DIRT project was presented in a poster format under the theme Best Practices for Designing, Implementing, and Managing Citizen Science Projects and Programs. The poster was with a set of posters related to climate change. Among the discussions with the other presenters, it was particularly interesting to learn about a new initiative for the development of a National Climate Indicators System by the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), the Commons Lab of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (The Wilson Center), and the Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science. Among the preliminary indicators of physical climate changes in this initiative, soil moisture was the only soil variable. This could be important in the near future, as MO DIRT participants will collect data on soil respiration, among other variables, to explore the possibility of using the rate of soil respiration as another indicator of physical climate change. The contact persons for this new initiative are: Melissa A. Kenney (Melissa [dot] kenney [at] noaa [dot] gov) and Emily Therese Cloyd (ecloyd [at] usgcrp [dot] gov).

The oral presentations I attended were related to technology (sensors, phone apps, GPS, social media) and best practices (evaluation, intellectual property law, ethics, monitoring, lessons learned) (See the attached program). Posters and oral presentations from this conference are available at

Other sessions attended included a symposium on Citizen Microbiology and an open roundtable on agriculture. At this last event, I had the opportunity to meet with Peter Donovan from the Soil Carbon Coalition (managingwholes [dot] com [at] gmail [dot] com, We discussed his experiences measuring soil respiration. He offered his advice on setting up a phone app for data collection and gave me contact information on additional people with experience measuring soil respiration.

It is important to highlight that among all oral presentations and posters, MO DIRT was the only project specifically working on soils. This suggests that soils-related citizen science is an area with many opportunities to explore.


MO DIRT - Missourians Doing Impact Research Together - A project to examine the soil-climate interface with citizen scientists.

The Missouri Transect project, recently funded by the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program, uses different scientific approaches to study and predict the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity and native flora in Missouri, and how stakeholder communities are likely to be affected by and respond to the challenges of changing climate. Important components of The Missouri Transect are public education and outreach efforts. MO DIRT - Missourians Doing Impact Research Together, is a new citizen science initiative that will crowdsource the collection of data on soil health and reciprocal soil-climate interactions across the state. Soils store vast amounts of organic carbon and the CO2 flux from soils to the atmosphere (soil respiration) is one of the largest fluxes in the global carbon cycle. Changes in climate due to an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere are expected to be influenced by changes in soil respiration. Missouri citizens, including K-12 students, equipped with training, guidelines, and soil quality test kits, will collect and electronically record relevant data to contribute to the overall research efforts. All participants can experience science-based enrichment activities to gain knowledge on the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil and better understand that healthy soils are living, breathing entities. MO DIRT data will be analyzed, validated, and used to compliment data on climate and plant performance produced by meteorologists, plant biologists, and computer scientists at Missouri Transect institutions to provide a more complete picture of the current and future impact of climate change on the natural resources of the state of Missouri.

Presenting Author: Sandra Arango-Caro, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis, MO

Co-Author: Terry Woodford-Thomas, Donald Danforth Science Center, St. Louis, MO (tthomas [at] danforthcenter [dot] org)

Corresponding Author: Sandra Arango-Caro

Tags: citizen science, education, mo dirt, poster, conference, soil health, outreach