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SciStarter Grant to Recruit Youth Groups in all 50 States to Support SMAP Ground Truth

Updated: Jul 10, 2018

Washington, DC – SciStarter ( has received grant commitment of up to $50,000 from Youth Learning as Citizen Environmental Scientists ( to recruit, train, and equip youth groups in all 50 states to take and report soil moisture measurements. The measurements will be taken following the Gravimetric and Volumetric Soil Moisture Protocol of the GLOBE Program ( This technique is the “gold standard” for measurement of soil moisture. Data will be reported to GLOBE and used in calibration and validation of data products from NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission (

Each youth group will commit to providing at least one measurement per month for the 10-month school year starting September 2015; it is hoped that some groups will form clubs to provide clusters of 10 measurements covering an area 10 km in radius and report data more frequently. Measurements are easy and simple to take and appropriate for citizen scientists including young students. On mornings when SMAP has flown over a site, a sample is taken of the top 5 cm (2 inches) of soil, weighed, dried under a heat lamp, and weighted again. The decrease in weight is equal to the mass of water that was in the sample – its soil moisture.

Brian Campbell of the SMAP team has said,

“Having citizen scientists collect soil moisture data is vital to the SMAP Mission. The soil moisture data collected by citizen scientists can be compared to the actual SMAP satellite data and used as a source of validation. Validation of the SMAP satellite data will allow for a much more robust and accurate dataset, thus giving us an optimal dataset of global soil moisture.”

To truly learn science and develop scientific habits of mind, young people must do science. Environmental citizen science makes this possible because many important and useful measurements may be taken in local surroundings, following straightforward techniques and using simple, affordable equipment. The science involved is comprehensible by young students and readily usable in student research activities and projects. The SciStarter grant will engage a broad range of young people in providing needed data and learning science by doing science.

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