Tea Bag Index is a citizen science app that allows people to easily collect observational data about soil. The app’s interface is user friendly and allows everyone, not just scientists, to learn more about soil organic matter content and decomposition.
How to use the app
Soil decomposition rate can be measured by burying a tea bag in soil and observing the tea leaves decomposition. First, you take a tea bag and weigh it. Then bury it in the soil that you want to study. After three months, you dig up the tea bag and weigh it. Calculate the difference between the tea bag’s weight before and after decomposition. Then, record your observations about how much the tea leaves have decomposed as well as any other interesting things you observe about the tea bag. If you want to learn more about your soil faster, you may also record basic soil observations such as soil color, soil life, and land use as well as uploading pictures of your soil. You may also participate in the Spade test—a more in-depth, yet relatively quick way to assess soil quality (check out this video for more information).
How you can get the app
To download and install the app on Android and Apple devices, use the following links.
Get the app for an Android!
Get the app for an Apple!
Once you download the app, create your own account using an existing email address. Then, create a username and password that you will remember.
Why using Tea Bag Index is fun and important
Every observation you will make and upload onto the app will provide information about the organic matter content and the decomposition products in the soil. A small experiment where you use tea bags, take photos, and upload information can generate an abundance of information about soil.
For more information, visit the Tea Bag Index website.
Now that you have the Tea Bag Index app, we challenge you to take observations of soil in your community. Take a picture, record basic soil observations, and then compare your observations to other soil observations on Tea Bag Index. Tell us what differs between the two soils! Submit your answer by direct messaging our Instagram account at @YCITYSCI for the chance to win a prize and your answer be featured on our page! New Tea Bag Index questions will be added to our Instagram story and page throughout the week. Respond to these questions to have a chance to win additional prizes!
We hope you all enjoyed our week of Loss of the Night! Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or comments about those activities.
We are now going to transition into our next week full of Tea Bag Index activities on our Instagram! Below are some interesting facts about soil. Are there any other soil facts that you would like to share with our team? Message us on Instagram to let us know!
- There are more microorganisms in a handful of soil than there are people on earth.
- It takes 500 years to produce just under an inch of topsoil, this is the most productive layer of soil.
- Soil is a living system.
- Soil acts as a filter for underground water, filtering out pollutants.
- Approximately 10% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are stored in soil.
- It provides all the nutrients required for successful plant growth.
- Soil consists of 45% minerals, 25% water, 25% air & 5% organic matter for good garden soil.
- The amount of sand, clay and silt is what gives different soil types their various textures. Most soils are a mix of all three.
- Worms enrich topsoil by feeding on organic material in the soil and converting it into nutrients for plants.
- Soil is at the bottom of the food chain, yet it is the cornerstone of life on earth.
- 95% of the food we eat comes from the soil – we’d be pretty hungry without it.
- Soils form through the slow physical, chemical, and biological weathering of bedrock. It is a non-renewable resource.
- When soil gets on your shoes, your kitchen floor, or under your fingernails, soil suddenly becomes “dirt.”
- A quarter of all known species on Earth call soil their home.
- Only about 1% of the microorganisms found in soil have been identified.
Featured image: Photo by M. Hefting from Tea Bag Index