Take a soil sample

TAKING A SOIL SAMPLE IS EASY. NO LAB COAT REQUIRED.

Everyone can be a citizen scientist in the field with MicroBlitz – no PhD required. You just need download the free MicroBlitz App, order your free MicroBlitz Sampling Kit and follow a few simple steps. Your free sampling kit/s can only be ordered via the MicroBlitz App (insert link to app store).

Now that your kit/s has arrived check out our step by step sampling instructions here:

KIT CONTENTS

Your free kit should include:

  • 1 x string and peg Quadrat
  • 1 x 15 cm ruler
  • 2 x plastic bags (1 small, 1 large)
  • 2 x small DNA (2ml) sample tubes
  • 1x ID card for sample site photo
  • 2 x cable ties
  • 1 MicroBlitz Record Sheet
  • Return pre-paid postpack/s

You will need to supply:

  • A trowel (or other suitable implement for digging)
  • Gloves (optional)
  • Your smartphone with MicroBlitz App to upload your data

STEP-BY-STEP SAMPLING INSTRUCTIONS

1. CHOOSE A SAMPLE SITE

Check the WA Microbe Map to make sure that the location you have chosen to sample is not within 100km of an existing sample site record. Now choose a spot that is typical of the main type of soil in your surroundings. Avoid choosing a site because it looks unusual or different to the surrounding soil type.

2. POSITION YOUR QUADRAT

Open and stretch out the quadrat into a square, then put the pegs in the ground to mark out the sample area.

3. ID YOUR SAMPLE SITE

Place the sample ID card into the quadrat.

When prompted by the app to take a photo, make sure that all sides of the quadrat are visible – you want the quadrat to fill as much of the photo as possible.

4. RECORD THE SAMPLE DATA

OPEN THE SMART PHONE APP TO BEGIN COLLECTING DATA – FOLLOW THE PROMPTS FOR EACH STEP.

In the Microblitz smartphone app, click on ‘Add a Sample’ on the main dashboard to begin recording the sample data.

  • Enter the Kit Number
  • Add the photo of the Sample Area
  • Enter any additional comments about the Sample Site
  • The Geocode and Date/time are automatically added by the app
  • Click on Save to save the sample data
  • Click on Yes to comfirm saving the sample data record, or Cancel if you want to review or modify the record before saving. Note that once saved, a record cannot be edited.

Once your sample record is saved, it will usually be automatically uploaded directly to the Microblitz server. If you have no WiFi or mobile phone service available, the record will upload when you are next within service range.

5. CLEAR THE SURFACE OF THE SAMPLE AREA

Remove any plant material or small rocks from an area in the middle of your quadrat (approx. 10cm x 10cm).

6. DIG A SMALL SAMPLING HOLE

In the middle of the cleared area within your quadrat, dig a hole about 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 even be able to see different coloured layers of soil.

7. COLLECT YOUR SAMPLE & PLACE INTO SMALL PLASTIC BAG.

Place your trowel in a vertical position just behind 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.

Each sample should only weigh between 150-200 grams, enough to almost half-fill the small plastic 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.

8. MIX YOUR SAMPLE

Simply hold the bag closed, while you carefully scrunch together the soil sample for 10-15 seconds, until it is mixed thoroughly.

9. LOAD DNA SAMPLES

Take the two small DNA sampling tubes (2ml) from your kit.

Check that the sample kit number on the tubes match the number on the plastic bag containing your soil sample.

Dip each of the tubes into the bag of mixed soil and fill to the line marked on the side – this will give you about half a gram of soil in each.

Secure the lids on the tubes and place both into the larger plastic bag.Do not place the DNA sample tubes in the small bag with your soil sample.

The mixed soil sample in the small bag will be used for chemical analysis only, and the soil in the small tubes will be used for DNA analysis only.

10. SEAL SMALL PLASTIC BAG

Using one of the cable ties, seal the top of the smaller plastic bag containing the mixed soil sample. Take care to push any excess air from the bag.

11. SEAL ALL SAMPLES IN THE LARGE PLASTIC BAG

Place the two small DNA sample tubes & the small bag of soil into the large plastic bag. Use the other cable tie to seal the large plastic bag.

12. 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.

13. STORE YOUR SAMPLE

Place the large bag (containing the two DNA sample tubes & the small bag of mixed soil) in cold storage ASAP – ideally into a freezer within six hours. If you don’t have access to a freezer, keep the sample as cool as possible (perhaps in a fridge or an esky). The important thing is to keep it below room temperature & send it soon as possible.

15. SEND YOUR SAMPLE ASAP

As soon as you can post your sample/s to our team at UWA. An addressed, reply paid postpack will have been provided to you. Please check the weight of the samples doesn’t exceed the postage allowance. Include the string and peg quadrat and ruler too, as these are cleaned and then re-used.  If you need our address to send your sample or drop off your sample, here it is:

MicroBlitz, M079,
The University of Western Australia35 Stirling Highway,
School of Agriculture and Environment,
Crawley, WA 6009

Got a question? You might find the answer on our FAQs page. Alternatively, get in touch – we’re here to help.