Earth’s soil is home to hundreds of thousands of microbial species, all of which strongly influence soil productivity, potentially affecting food and fibre production, greenhouse gas regulation, land rehabilitation, and biodiversity conservation. Despite their importance, there is little understanding about these soil microbes. MicroBlitz seeks to survey and map the microbial composition of soils across Western Australia through the use of modern DNA sequencing techniques and a novel ‘citizen science’ approach, engaging West Australians in a quest to ‘discover’ the hidden biodiversity of the soil beneath their feet.
MicroBlitz has the ambitious goal of building a map of the soil microbial communities inhabiting Western Australia´s (WA) soils. To accomplish this goal MicroBlitz plans to analyse soil samples every 100 km2 across WA employing a crowdsourcing approach that engages people to become citizen-scientists, asking them to collect soil samples, which are then mailed to the UWA laboratory for analyses. The outcome of these analyses will reveal the amazing biodiversity, abundance, and distribution of the microbial species living within WA’s soils. So far, more than 500 people have registered as samplers for MicroBlitz and more than 2000 sampling kits have been dispatched.
MicroBlitz provides a tangible way for people to engage with their environment, contributing to its care while offering volunteers the unique experience of being involved in a world-class biotechnology-based project.
The information generated by this project will help to gain a better understanding of soil-based microbial communities and their impact on maintaining and improving the sustainability of Australian soils. As the environment faces increasing pressures, and to capitalize on Australia’s rich natural resources, this project will help expand the knowledge on how microbial communities are influenced by factors such as land use (agriculture and mining), climate change, and rehabilitation practices. Some of the planned outcomes include the establishment of a shared and public knowledge database (‘SoilREF’) that will serve as a benchmark for future monitoring and as a central resource for a wide range of current and future WA soil research initiatives.
- Argonne National Laboratory