Soil biogeochemistry is intimately connected to the underlying geology, climate, hydrological cycle, as well as biota and their ecological interactions. UC Berkeley is one of the founding centers of the study of the biogeochemical forces that form soils, and is host to an extensive collection of samples from across California from the early 20th century.
This collection was the product of decades of soil samples throughout the state by numerous researchers, scientists and public officials from the 1920s to the 1980s. The majority of the collection was built in the 1950s and 1960s as part of the California Soil Vegetation Survey, which was supported by the California Department of Forestry and the Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experimental Station.
Prior to the Ecoengine project, this collection was all but forgotten; stored deep in the Regatta Facility in Richmond, California, untouched for many years. None of the samples were cataloged or organized and were essentially unavailable to researchers. Ron Amundson, Professor and Chair, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, was instrumental in orientating the Ecoengine Team and giving us access.
With extensive work from numerous dedicated undergraduate assistants, we labeled and imaged each jar, cataloged the label contents (depth, date, collector, location, soil series name, etc.), and then georeferenced those with sufficient locality information. We now have a catalog of 14,027 records - 10,311 of which are now searchable through this public portal: http://bigcb.berkeley.edu/soil/.
Soil collection at the UC
Facility (Richmond, CA)
The Ecoengine's soil crew posing
with newly catalogged samples