The DNA of dirt

From left, Beth, Matthew and De-arne collect soil at Carnarvon Station Reserve

Brian and Matthew working hard, collecting dirt!

Bush Blitz team members didn’t just bring back plants and animals from the Bush Blitz at Carnarvon Station Reserve. They also be brought back dirt!

Soil samples were collected as part of the Biomes of Australian Soil Environments (BASE) which is measuring and mapping the composition and diversity of soil microbes at 300 locations across Australia.

The introduction of this new addition to the Bush Blitz ‘shopping list’ coincides with new methods of collection. Each blitz will now collect samples from two ‘standardised sites’– selected using an environmental model developed by CSIRO.

In the past scientists on the expeditions have collected samples from whichever part of the property they think will be most likely to yield the specimens they need. But now soil, plants and animals will be selected from two defined sites on top of the scientists’ selected sites. This methodology helps to give us a really clear picture of what’s living and interacting within that area. This will provide some of the most comprehensive data-sets for a single environmental unit in Australia to date. These sites can then be used as on-going monitoring sites as well as part of the national study.

The soil samples will also contribute to a national data-set that will assist a wide range of ecological management areas, including the development of more sustainable agricultural and revegetation techniques and the management of soil-borne agricultural diseases.

Jo, Bush Blitz manager

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Citizens in WA are helping WA scientists map dirt in MicroBlitz. Read more about the project in this article in ECOS, the magazine for CSIRO

Bush Blitz is a partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia. The innovative program sends scientists out into the field to record the fascinating plants and animals in conservation areas across Australia.