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Soil Biodiversity Sampling techniques for school science Dr Kerry Bridle Tas Institute Agricultural Research University of Tasmania

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Presentation on theme: "Soil Biodiversity Sampling techniques for school science Dr Kerry Bridle Tas Institute Agricultural Research University of Tasmania"— Presentation transcript:

1 Soil Biodiversity Sampling techniques for school science Dr Kerry Bridle Tas Institute Agricultural Research University of Tasmania Ms Anna Paice PICSE Science Education Officer School of Ag Science, UTAS

2 What is PICSE? Primary Industry Centre for Science Education based at UTAS National program 8 Activity Centres Attracting talented students to study science, suffering from major skills shortages Teacher PDs, class visits, Industry Placement Scholarship for yr 11/12, Science Camps yr 10, classroom resources, UTAS Science Investigation Awards yr 5-12

3 Biodiversity in Grain & Graze

4 Site selection for comparison Remnant Native woodland Native grass understorey Small in area (4ha) Detached from other remnants Grazed conservatively Rotation /break crop Lucerne based pasture Sown 5 years ago Rotationally grazed Crop 2004 Barley 2005 Oats and Vetch 2006 Wheat Permanent pasture Mixed Pasture: Lucerne, Introduced perennials, Annual legumes, Native grasses emerging Sown 10 years ago Rotationally grazed

5 1/5 teaspoon of soil (~1g) contains: 100 million bacteria 1 million actinomycetes 100, 000 funghi with hyphae, that if strung together would measure 5 metres in length 75% soil biota are found in the top 10cm of soil – easy to find, look at and measure! e%20orchards%20pg27-28.pdf

6 Sampling patterns X pattern for bulk sampling Z pattern for bulk sampling

7 Getting a random sample using Excel Random numbers generated in Excel – using command =rand()*50, then copy the formula to other cells. Gives quadrat locations in metres along 8, 50 m long transects (T1-T8), two transects for each paddock on one farm

8 BiGGFieldDataManual.pdf 50m or 100m transects for sampling

9 Soil Health slides… Relating Soil Health indicators to biodiversity is a great way of linking different concepts…

10 Salinity Airdry soil sample warm, dry room for 24 hours Crush dry sample, remove stones and grass 1 in 5 dilution: 20mL soil + 100mL deionised water = 120mL total in measuring cylinder Shake/stir to dissolve salts, allow to settle 10 mins Test with salinity probe linked to datalogger EC meter often in Waterwatch kits or available from Roberts rural supplies

11 Compaction Screwdriver test: how deep does it penetrate? Instead of expensive equipment called penetrometer Can be used to compare land use areas: 4WD track, sheep track, open pasture, school lawn, remnant veg

12 Use Score Card to measure compaction Bill Cotching (2009) Soil Health for Farming in Tasmania

13 Soil moisture Take sample, weigh, oven dry overnight at low temp (~50°C), reweigh To calculate percentage soil moisture: (Wet weight - dry weight)/dry weight x 100 Why is this important? Affects earthworm counts, crop and pasture growth etc oils/testmethods/mc.pdf

14 Soil pH Dilute 1 part soil in 5 parts deionised water Swirl pH meter in solution until reading stabilises Record readings in triplicate and average

15 Use the following techniques to sample different soil biodiversity indicators Provide some example investigation questions for students to complete “Science as a Human Endeavour” “Science Inquiry Skills” “Science Understanding”

16 Litter bags Make the litter bags Fill with toilet paper Bury at different depths or in different land use types Do a visual comparison of break down over 1-2 months Use an un-buried paper as control for comparison Indicates soil microbial biodiversity and health, also relates to temperature and moisture

17 Investigation Questions Which type of toilet paper breaks down the fastest? Which type of soil breaks down toilet paper the fastest? Does soil moisture affect the rate of toilet paper break down? What is the ideal depth to bury your toilet paper when camping?

18 Cotton strip assay For soil microbial activity – indicator of soil health and biodiversity BiGGFieldDataManual.pdf Figure 1. Cutting incision into the soil Figure 2. Lay strips at right angles to the cut. Figure 3. Insert the strips into the ground. Leave strips for 2 weeks, remove with trowel, strength test using wool micron tester or suspend bucket on hook and add water (1mL = 1g) until each strip breaks!! Average results from different land-use areas, graph and present

19 Investigation Questions How can you measure the strength of different cotton strips? (methods, technology) Which land use type has the most active soil organisms? Relates to all the soil health measures, great way of discussing science content

20 Earthworm Counts Make a standard sampling quadrat for all groups Each groups needs shovel, quadrat, plastic sheet or bin liner, containers for collecting into and preserving vials/solution Dig down 10cm and place all soil onto plastic Sort through carefully and count aestivating earthworms and adult earthworms Take an individual of each type to identify later, preserve in metho Do the same with next 10cm of soil tch/how_to_participate/choosing_method/q uantitative_sort.html

21 Investigation Questions Which land use type has the highest earthworm count? How does earthworm count change with depth in soil profile? How does soil moisture or time of year effect earthworm counts?

22 Pitfall traps BiGGFieldDataManual.pdf

23 Pitfall traps Figure1. Situating liner in the ground. Figure 2. Backfill around liner. Figure 3. Position of cup at ground level. Figure 4. Inserting wire spacers. Figure 5. Completed pitfall trap with lid Figure 6. Adding Ethylene glycol.

24 Resources for using Pitfall Traps Good Bugs, Bad Bugs on PICSE GrowSmart website: find a spider soil invertebrates in Vic (similar to Tas) ertebrates.html ertebrates.html

25 Comparing land-use types

26 Pest and predator invertebrates

27 Investigation Questions What is the difference in species diversity between organic, conventional and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) orchards? What is the difference in number of insects in native grassland, bushland, gardens and cropland?

28 Research Example Sticky traps from research at TIAR by Steve Quarrell in Tassie apple orchards “good guys” in blue “bad guys” in red

29 Conventional

30 IPM

31 Organic

32 Using Scat Counts of native animals to determine stocking levels and grazing competition for pastures Copies of this fact sheet available from Anna Paice

33 The Ecological Society of Australia will be holding its annual conference in Hobart in 2011 (from November th ) Approximately 500 ecologists from Australia and overseas are likely to attend. We invite schools around Tasmania to participate in this event. We are still working out the details but would appreciate input from you regarding how this might happen. We are also keen to support statewide ecological surveys done by schools and colleges. A challenge is to come up with a statewide database (and some funds to develop it) that all the information can be stored in.

34 Free teacher resources for TQA Chemistry, Enviro, Biology Contact Anna Paice at


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