Dig It! The Secrets of Soil

by Andrea Laine

Soil covers one-third of the earth’s surface and, worldwide, it plays a role in agriculture, architecture and construction, art and rituals, medicine, water filtration, climate change and much more.  Did you know that the source of phosphorus in the Amazon rainforest is soils in the Saharan Desert blown across the Atlantic Ocean?  As a critical natural resource soils deserve much more respect than they typically get!

I am not a soil scientist.  But if I were, I’d be proud. That is how fascinatingly interesting I found the subject of soil during a recent visit to Dig It! The Secrets of Soil, an engaging exhibition on display through August 16, 2015 at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

Developed in conjunction with the Soil Science Society of America (including several North Carolina soil scientists) and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, this exhibition is diverse, highly interactive and informative for all ages.

As gardeners we understand that soils are living (teeming with insects and microbes); soils are varied (more or less pH, more or less organic matter, more or less space between particles for example); soils change (sometimes whether we want them to or not); and soils link land, air and water.

Dig It! explains those points and explores the profound ways soils support our lives well beyond their role in agriculture.  One exhibit focused on common products in a home that rely on soils such as ceramic tile flooring, house paint and fabrics.  Another demonstrated the impact construction projects have on soils.  Others let visitors peer into deep cross-sections of soil to see what it looks like well underground. One massive display included a soil sample cross-section for each of the 50 states. There is also a section about the arts and science of pottery in North Carolina.

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is located at 11 West Jones Street in Raleigh. It is open Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entry at 4 p.m.) and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. (last entry at 4 p.m.) Admission to the museum is free and there are free and low-cost parking options nearby.  http://naturalsciences.org/

If you can’t make it to the exhibit, you can watch some creatively educational videos about soils by following this link:  http://forces.si.edu/soils/