Questions for “Cool Jobs: Unearthing the secrets of soil”


In ordinary soil, scientists can find clues to past civilizations, evidence to catch criminals and bacteria that might help fight global warming.


To accompany feature “Cool Jobs: Unearthing the secrets of soil” 


Before Reading:

1.  If you looked at a scoop of dirt under a microscope, what are some of the things you think you’d see?

2. Think of soil you’ve seen in different places, like the playground, a forest or a beach. What characteristics could help you tell these soils apart?

During Reading:

1.  What is permafrost?

2.  Why is the permafrost in danger of melting?

3.  Based on the story, what negative effects would you expect from melting permafrost?

4.  Janet Jansson is hoping to find helpful bacteria in the permafrost. What job would these bacteria perform?

5.  Lorna Dawson can use soil samples to match criminals to crime scenes. What are some of the clues hidden in the soil that she uses?

6.  How did fictional detective Sherlock Holmes use soil science?

7.  How much soil does Dawson need for an analysis?

8.  What is a peat bog? What makes up the soil there?

9.  Why are peat bogs good at preserving clues from human history?

10.  Describe how radiocarbon dating helps scientists figure out the age of something.

After Reading:

1.  Kira Hoffman found charcoal layers in the bogs she studies, which told her ancient people had used fire there. What other kinds of materials and objects might old civilizations have left behind in soil?

2.  If soil scientists analyzed the dirt on your shoes, what would they find out about your life?