Taking a soil sample is easy.
No lab coat required.
Everyone can be a citizen scientist with MicroBlitz. You don’t need a PhD or a white lab coat. You just need your free MicroBlitz soil sampling kit and the instructions below, plus:
- A basic digging tool (a trowel is ideal);
- A camera to take photos of your sample site (a phone camera is fine); and
- A smartphone with GPS functionality or SAT NAV (or even just a map).
What’s in your free sampling kit?
Once you’ve registered to become a MicroBlitz citizen scientist, we’ll send your free soil sampling kit to you in the post. When it arrives, run a quick check to make sure it contains:
- 1 x string-and-peg quadrat
- 2 x plastic bags (one small, one large)
- 2 x small (2ml) DNA sample tubes
- 2 x cable ties
- 1 x MicroBlitz Sample Record sheet/Shipping Form
- 1 x plastic ruler
- 1 x pre-paid post pack
What if you’re collecting more than one sample?
If you’re collecting one soil sample, simply complete the front of the shipping form. However, if you’re collecting more than one sample, you’ll need to complete the back of the form too, ensuring you follow the steps below for each sample*. It’s important that the details for each sample are recorded against the relevant sample kit number.
Your step-by-step guide to taking a soil sample.
Please follow the below step-by-step guide to taking a soil sample.
Alternatively, you can view the following video which describes the soil sampling process.
- Choose your sample site. Pick a site that’s typical of the main type of soil in your surroundings. Avoid choosing a site because it looks different to the surrounding soil type.
- Record your GPS coordinates. You’ll find information about how to take and record your position on the back of the Shipping Form. Don’t worry if you don’t have GPS on your phone or SAT NAV – you can use a map to describe your position in relation to the nearest town (e.g. 10 kilometres south-east of Kalgoorlie).
- Position your quadrat. Open and stretch out the quadrat into a square, then place the pegs in the ground to mark out the sample area.
- Photograph your sample area. Snap a shot from above, making sure that all sides of the quadrat are visible – you want the quadrat to fill as much of the image as possible. Note: If you’re taking multiple samples, label each image with matching kit number, to ensure we know which picture belongs to which soil sample taken. Soon you will be able upload your pics through our website, but for now send them by email, remembering to quote your kit number, to email@example.com. Alternatively you may send in copies of the pictures taken or place the pictures on a USB and return them with your soil samples.
- Clear the surface of your sample area. Using your hands or a trowel, remove any plant material or stones/rocks from a small area in the middle of your quadrat. Clear an area that’s roughly 10cm x 10cm, or the size of a small plate.
- Dig a small sampling hole. In the middle of the cleared area within your quadrat, dig a hole about 3-5cm square and about 10cm deep. When you look at the wall of the hole (what we call the ‘soil profile’) it should be flat and vertical – you might be able to see different coloured layers of soil.
- Collect your sample. Place your trowel in a vertical position above one of the flat sides of your hole. Push straight down to the bottom of the hole and lift out the soil – we’re looking for enough soil to half-fill the small bag in your kit. If you see any small rocks or large pieces of plant material, such as roots or bark, then remove these by hand from your soil sample.
- Seal your sample in the small bag. Place the sample you’ve collected in the smaller of the two bags in your kit (your sample should roughly half-fill the bag). Don’t worry if you don’t collect enough soil in one go – simply repeat the process on another side of the hole and top up the bag until it is about half full.
- Mix your sample. Close the top of the bag by gripping the opening between your thumb and index finger, then carefully scrunch together the soil sample for 10–15 seconds, until it is mixed thoroughly.
- Load your sample for DNA analysis.
- Take the two small DNA sampling tubes (2ml) from your kit.
- Check that the sample kit number on the tubes matches the number on the small bag containing your mixed soil sample.
- Dip each of the tubes into your bag of mixed soil and fill them up to the line marked on the side – this will give you about half a gram of soil in each tube.
- Secure the lids on the tubes and place both of them into the large plastic bag. Do not place the small DNA tubes in the bag with the mixed soil sample – the mixed soil sample in the small bag will be used for chemical analysis, while the soil in the small tubes will be used for DNA analysis.
- Seal the remaining soil in the plastic bag. Using one of the cable ties, seal the top of the smaller bag containing the mixed soil sample. Take care to push any excess air from the bag.
- Put all of your soil samples in the big plastic bag. Place the two small DNA sample tubes and the small bag of mixed soil into the larger plastic bag. Then, using the second cable tie, seal the larger plastic bag, ready for storage in a freezer or fridge.
- Restore the sample area. Use your trowel to fill in the sample hole with soil, then gently stamp around the area, returning the site to the state you found it in.
- Congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Remember to store your soil sample correctly.
Once you’ve taken your sample, it’s important that you store it correctly. Check out our guidelines on how to store your soil sample and then send your sample to our lab team.
Got a question? You might find the answer on our FAQs page. Alternatively, get in touch – we’re here to help.