Soil Studies

Soil Characteristics

    No two soils are ever the same and they can change over time.  Analyzing a soil sample allows scientists to observe the changes in color, texture, composition, and soil decomposers over time and between different ecosystems.  Observing a change in color, texture, composition and decomposers (including macroinvertebrates) indicates to scientists that there may be a change in soil nutrients, pH, moisture level and/or temperature.  These changes may signify a larger change in the characteristics of the ecosystem containing the soil sample. 


Collecting your soil sample
Use the soil corer to collect the soil sample. 

Hold and position the soil corer as shown in the picture to the right.   DO NOT USE YOUR FOOT TO PUSH THE CORER INTO THE GROUND!!  Instead, while pushing down on the corer, slowly rotate it back and forth until it is about half way into the ground. 

To remove the soil corer from the ground, simply pull up on the corer while reversing the back and forth action.  Remove your soil sample from the corer and spread the soil contents onto the blue lid of your field box. 

In your field box, on the index card marked "Soil Sample", use the tape to attach a pea-sized amount of your soil sample to the card.  With the pencil, write your group number under "Soil Sample" on the index card.  

Return the corer to its original location so other groups may use it.

 Soil Name

Use the soil color chart in your field box to identify which soil color most closely matches the color of your soil sample.  Place a small amount of your soil sample next to the color square on the color chart to be sure of your identification.  Record the name of the soil color in the "Soil Color Name" blank below.

Soil Number 
Once you have identified your soil color by name, enter the soil color number in the "Soil Color Number" blank below.  Soil color numbers are written first Hue, then Value, then Chroma.  See example below:     


          Soil Name:  Pink
          Soil Number:  5YR 8/4  (Hue: 5YR  -  Value: 8  -  Chroma: 4)

Soil Texture

Use the soil texture chart in your field box to determine the soil texture of your sample.

Record your findings in the "Soil Texture" blank below. 




Soil Composition

No two soils are made up of exactly the same things.  For that reason, each soil sample has its own unique composition.  Spend a few minutes using the magnifying boxes and hand lenses to look more closely at your soil sample.  Record contents in the "Composition" blank below.
Large Stones


Look closely at
the soil for small pieces
 of plastic or glass



Pebble size or larger
> 2.0 mm


Small / Fine
0.05 - 2.0 mm


Smaller / Finer
0.002 - 0.05 mm


Smallest / Finest
< 0.002 mm


Check all that apply.

 Soil Macroinvertebrates

If soil macroinvertebrates are present, use the "Creatures of the Soil" guide in your field box to identify the organisms you have found.

Enter the names of those organisms in the blank below.