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Scale Matters

B2 scientists are studying the movement of water through soil in three “sizes” or scales:

  • Small: in a beaker on a lab bench where we can measure chemical changes.
  • Medium:  On the LEO slopes where rain can be controlled and microbes can be measured.
  • Large:  In the mountains that pop up out of desert grasslands where we measure natural activity.

By measuring the chemical changes in the soil, the physical movement of water and the changes in microscopic life in each of these conditions, we can better connect lots of important research. Looking at small, medium and large scales we can control variables in different ways to learn how Earth’s ecosystems support life on our planet.

Fun Facts About Soil

• Soil produces almost all the food you eat, the fibers for the clothes you wear and the wood for the house you live in!

• One cup of soil may hold as many bacteria as there are people living on the earth (over 7 billion!)

• A shovel full of soil can contain more species of organisms than live above ground in the entire Amazon rain forest.

• A teaspoon of forest soil may hold more than 10 miles of fungi.

Famous Quotes About Soil

"A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people."

—Franklin D. Roosevelt

“The soil itself must be the object of observation and experiment and the facts obtained must be soil facts before they can be incorporated into soil science. The science of zoology was developed through the study of animals, that of botany through the study of plants, and soil science must be developed through the study of the soil.”

— C. F. Marbut, 1920

“Our most important job as vegetable gardeners is to feed and sustain soil life, often called the soil food web, beginning with the microbes. ”Feed the soil not the plants.”

—Jane Shellenberger, Organic Gardener’s Companion: Growing Vegetables in the West

Schedule your visit out to Biosphere 2

One of the most exciting and expensive instruments ever built to study Earth is right in your backyard. Visitors and students come to Biosphere 2 every day to learn about how our planet works! Visit them at 

Image courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management

November 2016