Rock Team

Team Description

The rock team is responsible for measuring and monitoring the quality and stability of soil in our region. Microorganism biodiversity, erosion resistance, agricultural productivity, and conservation of the water table highly depend on soil stability, which is dependent on soil moisture. The rock team will be responsible for constructing three self-sustaining soil moisture instruments adapted from FreeStation and RaspberryPi builds. Members will then profile basic changes of surface soil under a multitude of moisture conditions through x-ray deflection (XRD).

Yasamin Bayley soldering the FreeStation

Current Project: soil moisture And surface mineralogy Analysis

Minerals determine the texture and structure of soil. Soil stability is necessary for microorganism biodiversity, erosion resistance, agricultural productivity, and conservation of the water table. Research suggests soil moisture contributes to soil stability by altering the organo-mineral interactions responsible for soil aggregation. Understanding this relationship has significant implications for soil remediation and agricultural practices.

We will construct three self-sustaining soil moisture instruments adapted from the FreeStation and RaspberryPi builds. Utilizing x-ray deflection (XRD), we will profile the mineralogical and elemental changes of surface soil under various moisture conditions.

Project Goals:
  1. We will be collecting Silt loam soil samples that vary in organic matter content to determine whether mineral changes resulting from soil moisture are dependent on organo-mineral interactions
  2. Observing and tracking changes in mineralogy will be conducted through spectroscopic analysis, which may be conducted using an XRF
    (x-ray fluorescence spectrometry) instrument, or other analytical techniques.

    Surfical Geologic Map of New York State
    USGS surficial geology map of new york

Currently, the team has been determining potential locations for future soil sample collection throughout the Ithaca area, for which they will analyze natural versus anthropogenic sources of phosphorus in soil. This will be done with phosphorus sensors and potentially x-ray diffraction, the former of which the team used last semester at the Cornell Center for Materials Research to determine the elemental composition of previously collected soil samples around Cascadilla Gorge. Ultimately, the research will take into account both the mineralogy of naturally occurring Ithaca soils, and the potential effects that human activities in the agricultural, residential, and industrial sectors around Tompkins County have had upon surface-layer soils. In an increasingly populated world, there will no doubt be increasing hazards to soil quality and the team hopes to continue to benefit not only the local community, but the scientific community as a whole, through getting key answers.