News › Journey to centre of the Earth: the first 23cm
25 June 2010
Millions of individual organisms and many thousands of species can be found in just one teaspoon of soil. Scientists from Rothamsted Research, an institute of the BBSRC, are using new methods to study this huge complexity in soil, to understand how it works and what previously undiscovered organisms it may contain. They will be presenting their research to the public at the Royal Society’s annual Summer Science Exhibition, which runs from 25 June to 4 July.
Most of the myriad organisms in soil, whether bacteria, fungi or invertebrate animals, are very hard to study in the lab - some are as yet unknown to science. But DNA can be extracted from microorganisms without first isolating them from soil and now scientists are using the latest DNA sequencing technologies to unearth the secrets of the first 23cm of soil. This is the plough layer, where the bulk of plant roots are found and where biological activity is at its highest. Understanding the microbiology of the soil is important as these organisms provide nutrients for plants and food crops but also provide us with clean air and water. By analysing a soil sample scientists can discover the DNA sequences it contains: some of the sequences act as ID tags for different organisms or functions. Comparing these ID tags against a database containing all known DNA sequences identifies which organisms are in the soil- and more importantly-what they do.
Related links› Online version of the exhibit
› The Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition
› Exhibit web page
Contacts› Penny Hirsch and Ian Clark
Notes to EditorsThe Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition showcases cutting edge research in science and engineering from across the UK. It is held annually at the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science. This year the exhibition is being held at Southbank as part of See Further: The Festival of Science + Arts to mark the Royal Society’s 350th Anniversary.
Press preview of this exhibit and others on show: 15.00 – 17.00 Tuesday 22 June - please register your interest with the Royal Society press office. Images available on request.
This year, 27 interactive exhibits will be on show presenting the best of UK science, engineering and technology. During the five days of the event, more than 10,000 people are expected to take up the opportunity to explore the exhibition.
The Exhibition is located in the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, and takes place from Friday 25 June to Sunday 4 July 2010. Open Friday 25 June 6pm - 8.30pm, then daily 10am - 8.30pm.
The event is FREE and open to the public.
The Royal Society is an independent academy promoting the natural and applied sciences. Founded in 1660, the Society has three roles, as the UK academy of science, as a learned Society, and as a funding agency. As we prepare for our 350th anniversary in 2010, we are working to achieve five strategic priorities, to:
» Invest in future scientific leaders and in innovation
» Influence policymaking with the best scientific advice
» Invigorate science and mathematics education
» Increase access to the best science internationally
» Inspire an interest in the joy, wonder and excitement of scientific discovery
Between November 2009 and November 2010, the Royal Society is celebrating its 350th anniversary, promoting a spirit of enquiry, excitement and engagement with science. The Society is working with organisations across the country to raise the profile of science and bring scientific activities to new audiences. This includes:
» A unique ten-day science festival between 25th June and 4th July 2010, held at Southbank Centre in London. It includes an enhanced version of the Society’s annual summer science exhibition, which gives visitors the opportunity to meet the scientists and engineers at the forefront of the UK’s research activities and to explore their work through interactive exhibits. There are also collaborations with artists and performers, debates, broadcasting and the participation of audiences.
» A comprehensive programme of public lectures, debates and discussion meetings, exploring some of the most fascinating and ground-breaking areas of science, at the Society’s premises in Carlton House Terrace.
» The Capital Science programme (London) – the Society is working in partnership with leading museums and galleries, as well as other organisations in London, to celebrate the Royal Society’s anniversary and explore the impact of science within the wider cultural landscape.
» The Local Heroes programme - the Society is working with over seventy museums and galleries around the UK to celebrate their local scientific heroes, whether they are pioneers of the industrial age, geniuses that changed the way we see the world today or contemporary scientists finding solutions to today’s problems.
» Publication of special editions of the Society’s scientific journals and a popular book, Seeing further: The Story Of Science and The Royal Society, edited by Bill Bryson and published by Harper Press, which covers the unique history of science and scientific issues of the last 350 years.
» A diverse range of other elements, including publication of a variety of policy reports, educational events and grants, research grants and international events and conferences
» More information about the anniversary year can be found at http://royalsociety.org
Rothamsted Research Press Office
Rothamsted is the longest running agricultural research station in the world, providing cutting-edge science and innovation for nearly 170 years. Our mission is to deliver the knowledge and new practices to increase crop productivity and quality and to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for food and energy production. Our strength lies in our integrated, multidisciplinary approach to research in plant and soil science.
Rothamsted Research receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) . It is the longest running agricultural research station in the world, developing environmentally sustainable solutions for food and energy production through science and innovation for nearly 170 years.
BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences and the largest single public funder of agriculture and food-related research.
Sponsored by Government, BBSRC's budget for 2011-12 is around £445M which it is investing in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.
BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:
The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Aberystwyth University), Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre, The Genome Analysis Centre, The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) and Rothamsted Research.
The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.
For more information see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk
Operates two national networks for monitoring insect populations in the UK. More...
Provides the research community access to a range of in situ state-of-the-art instrumentation in hydrologically isolated fields and farms to better address key issues in sustainable agriculture. More...
A database of interactions between pathogens and their hosts maintained at Rothamsted Research with international input. More...
These have been running since the mid 19th Century, provide a unique experimental system and archive of soil and plant samples. More...
Rothamsted Research receives
strategic funding from the BBSRC
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