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Bacteria, Worms, Fungi and more .. the Soil Biome

Updated: Jul 6

by Brittany Winchester, FSR Board Member

On the supremely sunny 8th of June, the Friends of the Stony Run hosted its first "Soil Biome Walk.” This walk attracted nature enthusiasts and curious minds alike. As attendees, we were encouraged by our guides, JHU Research Professor Kathy Szlavecz and EDF Program Manager & Urban Farmer Rodrigo Soares, to consider the intricate world beneath our feet. We enjoyed a beautiful guided walk through various habitats along the Stony Run, which invited us to notice the hidden universe of microorganisms, fungi, and other organisms crucial to soil health. 

Throughout the event, we strengthened our appreciation for the interconnectedness of life above and below ground through discussions, observation, and hands-on soil sampling. The discussions ranged from the symbiotic relationships between plants and soil microbes to the impacts of human activities on soil quality, particularly in an urban environment. Our guides shared insights on sustainable soil management practices and ways that individuals can contribute to preserving soil biodiversity in urban environments like the Stony Run.

A personal highlight was a detour taken down a small pathway to follow Kathy’s finely tuned earthworm radar. There we learned about the ongoing underground exchange of minerals and sugars. This exchange was brought to life as we were treated to some cookies while we listened closely. We then coaxed the local earthworm population to our side of the ground to say “hello” and appreciate their diversity up close. 

The walk ended with the attendees taking soil cores and working with Izzy Nobili, a JHU graduate student, to test each sample’s PH. James Wolf, Friends of the Stony Run’s president shared his thoughts after the event via a friendly follow-up email stating, “We found mostly alkaline soils. This is what we would expect for urban fill soils containing concrete. This is not optimal for forest conditions, but it's not terrible. Let's say that there's room for improvement.” 

The event aimed to educate and empower attendees to become stewards of the soil, fostering a deeper connection to the environment. It also served as a friendly reminder to spend time outdoors, appreciate our valuable urban green spaces, and build community. 

Editor's note: Want to learn more about soil and what we can do to regenerate it? Check out this presentation from Dr. Sara Via, Professor & Climate Extension Specialist at the University of Maryland College Park Regenerating Our Soil: Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants, Health Planet

Photos by Kimberly Maria Buxton, Janet Felsten and Amy Johanson

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