Soil Science: Citizen Science Series Week 1 & 2

For those of you who didn’t get to read, Duke Energies gave the Girl Scout Council a grant to build a rain garden at the Camp Mary Atkinson Leadership Center (the same place that my rabbits were this summer).

Problem Statement: 

The Neuse river basin is one of the fastest growing in the nation. The rapid growth and urbanization has resulted in water quality problems caused by erosion and development. Soil erosion is the primary source of water quality impairment in North Carolina. Development creates pavement, which means that water flows at a higher velocity into creeks, causing more erosion, and more water quality decline. There is an increasing demand for scientists to address these environmental issues. Yet there are very few students entering these fields. The entire goal of this series is to expose girls to soil science, and let them use hands on artistic skills to solve scientific problems.

Week 1

Time to put clay on the model so we can test real  time development change

Time to put clay on the model so we can test real time development change

The series began on September 21 where the girls met with me, a Soil Science PhD student at NC State University. Here they built their own 3D model of the Leadership Center at Camp Mary Atkinson and the surrounding grounds using kinetic sand. The model would allow the girls to test out different shapes and designs for their rain garden and help them decide which shape and location would decrease run off from the Leadership Center the most.

Runoff from a rain garden  (right), is much clearer than the rain going into the garden (left)

Runoff from a rain garden (right), is much clearer than the rain going into the garden (left)

The group then took a field trip to a local elementary school that had implemented a rain garden near their parking lot to compensate for run off from their buildings. Here, they met the lead design engineer, Sean Dolle, a civil engineer with Grounded Engineering. They also met with wetland scientist from SEPI Engineering, Shawn Clark, fish and wildlife biologist with US Fish and Wildlife Service, JohnAnn Shearer, and conservation incentives program director with NCDENR, Scott Pohlman. The local professionals explained their design and implementation process for the rain garden they built.

Identifying and Developing Native Plants

Identifying and Developing Native Plants

This particular rain garden was actually called a bioretention cell since it had an underground system, something a typical rain garden lacks. Girls were able to talk one on one with the engineer and design team as they explored the intricate workings behind the scenes.

Week 2:

Soil Texture by Feel, Girls becoming comfortable with the different sand, silt, and clay levels.

Soil Texture by Feel, Girls becoming comfortable with the different sand, silt, and clay levels.

The second session of Citizen Science on September 28 brought the girls out to Camp Mary Atkinson where they got down and dirty! The morning began by learning the role of soils in the ecosystem, and where they come from. They also learned how soils change across the land surfaces. They also learned how to identify various soils using texture by feel. The different color, structure, and horizons were very important.

Augering a soil profile is hard work, but shows the differences in soil horizons.

Augering a soil profile is hard work, but shows the differences in soil horizons.

Using their new knowledge the new scientists took soil samples of several locations in order to identify the best location for the rain garden at Camp Mary Atkinson. The girls learned about augers and the different levels of soil that existed beneath the surface. There is an entire history underneath our feet every day and these Girl Scouts certainly had to put all their energy into digging it up!

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One response to “Soil Science: Citizen Science Series Week 1 & 2

  1. Pingback: Citizen Science Raingarden Transformation | DirtArtful·

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