Pint of Science 2017 Preview 2

Pint of Science is an international festival taking place simultaneously in 11 countries, including in 26 cities in the UK. Last year, it came to Nottingham for the first time and this year it’s back, bigger and even better. With tickets on sale now, we sat down with one of the speakers, Sarah Pierce, an OPAL community scientist, to dig the dirt on soil.

We rely on soil to grow our food, build our communities, alleviate flooding and drought and support entire eco-systems. However, in the last 150 years we have degraded or lost nearly half of it. Fortunately, Sarah is here to help up explore the secrets of soil and stop taking it for granted, “just a teaspoon of it can be home to more living things than there are people on the planet” Sarah explains.

After being roped in to help out with a couple of events at last year’s festival, Sarah steps up to give her own talk this time around. She is relishing the opportunity to take her work to non-scientists, “you get a really different perspective and usually some really interesting questions, which can lead to new ideas.” As if that’s not enough, Sarah says, “add in a good pint, and that’s pretty much my ideal night out anyway.”

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about soil. Which soil properties influence the organisms that live there? How does land management affect soil function? How will soils respond to a changing climate? Sarah says that her talk will feature, “a bit about what we know about soil, what we don’t know and what you can do to help answer those questions.” There may also be an anecdote about “Darwin playing a bassoon to his earthworms.”

Sarah also has advice to help us save our soil, “if you have a garden, don’t pave over it, don’t fill it with chemicals, and do grow some plants. This will help keep soils healthy, reduce erosion and improve drainage, as well as making it a more pleasant space.” If you’re up for getting your hands dirty, “there are lots of citizen science projects you can do to help improve our understand our soils, the animals that live in them, and how they respond to change, for example, the OPAL Soil and Earthworm Survey.” Then if you’re politically active, “being aware of policies that could help or harm our soils and making sure your voice is heard is also really important.”

Sarah speaks on the 15th of May at Rough Trade, along with Sara Goodacre talking about flying spiders and Angus Davison talking about a lovelorn snail. For more information on this talk and others and tickets, visit the Pint Of Science website:

Author’s notes

Second interview that I did to preview Pint of Science. Submitted to the Nottingham Post but never published.


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