by Ed Tripp, University of Nottingham
Two hundred and fifty-seven samples collected!
It took four weeks, and a good few thousand miles, but finally all the soil samples have been collected. These have now been placed in pots, and two heather seedlings are growing in each sample.
Currently the seedlings are less than 3mm high, but within the next six months they will grow slowly, to around 5cm!
The next step is to collect some other data from the soil. I dry a sample in an oven at 85°C, and then combust it in a furnace for eight hours at 550°C. This will provide loss on combustion data, which essentially tells me how much organic matter is in the soil, as opposed to mineral matter, such as sand. This might affect how the heather grows, but I will have to wait another six months to find that out!
Now I am preparing for a summer of vegetation surveys around my heathland sites. If you want to see me in action collecting soils, check out this video:
There is also more fun science-related stuff on TestTube...