Participate in a Research Project

Be an Earth Monitor!

Your classroom or group can get involved in a research project collecting data for real Earth scientists.


(Students' Cloud Observations On-Line)

S'COOL is a real-time, collaborative science experiment that elementary through secondary students conduct with NASA scientists. Participants make ground truth observations of clouds for comparison with satellite data. These observations help NASA scientists validate the measurements from NASA's CERES satellite instrument (Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System). The S'COOL Web site includes several educational resources, including tutorials, cloud ID charts and ideas for projects. The site also includes information on Roving Cloud Observations for S'COOL, a program for citizen scientists.

Lunar Outpost Design Challenge

Help NASA design facilities to support life on the moon! Click here to find out how you can be the first to make exploration on the moon possible!

3rd Globe Contrail Count-a-thon

Help NASA scientists count contrails!

Soil Moisture Sampling Campaign

Participate in a data collection project with scientists from the University of Arizona to learn about the soil in your area. The goal of this project is to create global and regional snapshots of near-surface soil moisture for comparison with satellite and model data sets. Soil moisture data will be collected during Earth Science Week and will be incorporated into a national database.

Participants are asked to organize groups of students and parents to collect near-surface (5 and 10 cm) soil moisture measurements following the gravimetric data collection protocol (not under a canopy or in an irrigated site) This project can be carried out within 60 minutes travel time of your school, at any time during Earth Science Week and at any time of day. Participants will need a GPS unit, a map, and access to a soil drying oven which can be constructed by the group or used in collaboration with a local scientific agency.


How can you participate?

Collect samples within the nine-day campaign time window, which is tied to Earth Science Week and the week surrounding Earth Day. The samples can be collected at any time of day.

Selecting appropriate sample sites is one of the harder tasks you will face. Soil moisture can vary depending upon the soil, canopy cover, slope of the land, and sun exposure. But most of all, it is related to the time since the last rain, snow or irrigation event. If at all possible, sample from regionally important or typical areas that are relatively uniform in character, flat, open (no canopy cover) and unirrigated. In some cases, where it is convenient to collect soil from the road right-of-way (see example, below), it is very important not to sample from a roadside ditch, which tends to be wetter than the surrounding landscape. Always make sure to respect private property and make sure your area is safe for digging (lookout for motorist blind spots, poisonous animals/insects, buried wires and pipes), particularly if you are next to a road.

Use a garden trowel, ruler and water tight container to collect duplicate near-surface soil samples, first from the surface down to 5 cm and then between 8 and 12 cm depth. Collect at least 150 g of soil or enough to fill an 8 oz (250 mL) cup half-way. Place each sample into a tin can or foil pouch and then seal it in a plastic bag. Carefully label each container and note where each sample came from (see the data worksheets). Later, you will record the wet weight of your samples, dry them and then record the dry weights (to the nearest 0.1 gram).

Details - finding latitude & longitude
If possible, find the Global Positioning System (GPS) latitude and longitude of each of your data collection sites (reported as decimal degrees and elevations in meters). Average 5 consecutive readings, one minute apart to get a more accurate value. Sportsman, hikers and outdoor-orientated parents or staff might already have a GPS your class could borrow. If a GPS is not available, you can interpolate latitude and longitude from a USGS topographic map.

Details - drying your samples
Your samples should be dried at 105 oC for 24 hours in a soil oven, kiln or glass drying convective oven. Its even possible to build your own oven out of a clean 55 gal drum split in half and heated using four 100 W light bulbs (link to plans). A microwave might work for a few samples but takes time. We strongly encourage schools to contact local colleges, businesses, environmental offices or county extension agents to seek professional help drying your samples. Remember, as long as you record the wet weights as soon after collection as possible, you can dry your samples at any time.

Details - reporting the data
If you are a GLOBE school, enter your data into the GLOBE archive using the near-surface protocol. Otherwise, Email or fax your completed data sheets to; 520-626-7770.

The GLOBE soil moisture campaign
The University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721-0011,
Martha Whitaker or Jim Washburne
(520) 621-3041 or -9715