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Graduate Student Publishes Research on New Lab Protocol

Soil and Water Sciences doctoral student Rose Collins did not intend to create a new type of filter barrier technique, but as the saying goes: necessity is the mother of invention. Collins was studying the effect of short-term flooding on nutrient cycling and intact soil cores. But there was a problem – how to keep the soil samples from being disturbed when water was added. Her findings produced a new lab protocol associated with current flooding procedures.

A side view of the paper cone, named the Collins-filter barrier technique, preventing soil sediment and organic material from floating into water column of intact soil core. (Credit Rose Collins)

“I’m slowly adding the water to these core samples and even that little bit is stirring up the soil,” Collins explains. “I was thinking, what can I do to still have that chemical flux without physically moving the soil?”

Her dissertation committee members suggested she examine ways to address the soil disturbance problem, so she came up with the idea of creating a barrier in the cylinders that would allow water to reach the core samples, but not disturb them. Collins first compared cellulose and paper filters. Both had the same chemical results, but the cellulose filters began to float in the water. She decided to focus on paper filters and began testing different shapes – flat circles directly on top of the samples and cones pointed down toward the samples. In the end, the cone proved the best option.

“It sticks to the sides better and keeps the soil particles down, physically stopping the material from floating,” Collins says. “That’s what I recommend overall and for short-term uses in my research.”

She published the findings of the Collins-filter barrier technique study in Agricultural and Environmental Letters, a journal from the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America. You can read the article HERE.