18 February 2021

Getting to the bottom of Soil Science

Article by Mrs Jessica Miller

Getting to the bottom of Soil Science

Year 11 Environmental Science students started off the year with an unusual practical activity designed to highlight the importance of soil health in decomposition rates and nutrient cycling. 

The students were testing different soil types around the school by burying pairs of new white cotton underpants - and then digging them up in two months time.

The activity, inspired by a University of New England challenge called "Soil your Undies" aims to see whether the soil biota (fungi and bacteria) is healthy at a number of locations around the school grounds. Upon excavation, if the undies have holes in them then it will indicate that soil microorganisms have broken down the cotton into special sugars they can use for food.

Students were challenged to think about variables that could affect the decomposition rates, methods of testing and comparing sites and possible environmental impacts related to the history and use of the site. The activity prepares students for the field based studies that they will undertake in the local area focussing on pollution and environmental issues and how to monitor and manage them.

Jessica Miller  Environmental Science teacher