Life in the Soil Environment Lab



Nhu Nguyen


1.  Acquire practical skills used to study the soil organismal diversity, the roles that they play in manipulation of essential ecosystem processes, and how they contribute to overall soil health.

2.  Apply experimental results to explain effects of various organisms on soil processes and connect these processes to the natural environments, effects on human society, and the overall future health of the planet.

3.  Demonstrate skills in writing, speaking, listening, questioning, and leadership.

Skills and knowledge to be acquired:

1. Demonstrate practical skills of soil biology from genes to ecosystems and how it is fundamental to the health of soils and agriculture. 2. Demonstrate the ability to critically evaluate scientific evidence from laboratory experiments and provide sufficient reasoning to apply these findings to modern agriculture and the environment. 3. Demonstrate the ability to apply available tools and fundamental principles of soil biology to develop solutions to solve agricultural and environmental issues.


The soil is arguably one of the most important resources available to humanity. It is the foundation in which most of the plants (including food crop) on the planet can be found and a cradle of an incredible diversity of life on this planet. In this class, we will use a multidisciplinary and integrative approach to understanding of the continuum of life in the soil: viruses, bacteria, archaea, fungi, protists, and invertebrates. We will learn through hands on experience how they function alone, in context of each other, and together how they cause huge changes in both natural and human-influenced environments.


BIOL 171L and 172L, or MICR 351L, or consent

Cross-Listed courses:




Not required. Material will be distributed by instructor.

Course organization:

This lab course consists of one 3 hours/week lab with topics that would reflect lecture materials. A mid-term and a final account for 45% of your grade. You will be assessed through a combination of practical skills and written reasoning. These types of question depend on the practical skill, but may include short answers, as well as simple calculations. You will be responsible for keeping a lab notebook (either physical or electronic) for observations as well as keeping notes. For each lab, you will be responsible for writing a lab report in a scientific format (to be provided in details). These lab reports will assess your ability to write scientifically while making connections between experimental data and current knowledge. Weekly written quizzes accounts for 20% of your grade and you may be assessed through various types of questions such as multiple choice, short answers, true/false, fill in the blanks, matching, and short essays. The term project oral presentation accounts for 10% of your grade. Term projects are independent and team-based projects that you will conduct throughout the semester with guidance from the instructor to investigate various aspects of soil biology. You will record and analyze your data and prepare an oral presentation that is given to the class at the end of the semester. The details of the projects will be provided at the beginning of the semester in details.



Grading components:

Exams (2)                     45%

Lab reports (12)            30%

Quizzes (12)                 15%

Project presentation     10%


Total                            100%


Letter Grade Assignment:

A+= 97-100, A= 93-96, A- = 90-92

B+ = 87-89, B = 84-86, B- = 80-83

C+= 77-79, C = 74-76, C- = 70-73

D+ = 67-69, D = 64-66, D- = 60-63

F = <60


Corequisite:The lab must be taken concurrently with TPSS 480/BIOL 480 or after passing the 480 course.