Tea Bag Index

$375
Raised of $10,000 Goal
4%
Ended on 11/02/13
Campaign Ended
  • $375
    pledged
  • 4%
    funded
  • Finished
    on 11/02/13

About This Project

Can drinking tea help us understand climate change?
Yes, but we need your help!
We use teabags to collect vital information on the global carbon cycle. We measure weight loss of tea bags after they´ve been buried in the soil for three months. From that we can calculate decomposition rate.With our protocol, consumers worldwide can collect data on the global carbon without much effort or instrumentation. Tea Bag Index Project aim to create a global map on decomposition with the help of tea bags.

Ask the Scientists

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What is the context of this research?


We’ve developed a simple and cheap method which anyone can use to measure decomposition in the soil, simply by burying teabags. We want to gather data points from all over the globe through the involvement of citizen scientists.

We aim to answer two main questions:

1.How do environmental conditions determine the speed of decomposition?

2.How do environmental conditions determine how much is broken down?

Eventually we want to create a global soil map of decomposition that can be used for educational purposes and to make current climate models even more accurate.

What is it about?

Decomposition (the decay of organic material) is a critical process for life on earth. Through decomposition, nutrients become available for plants and soil organisms to use as a food source in their metabolism and growth. When plant material decomposes, it loses weight and releases the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. In cold environments, breakdown is slower than in warm environments, meaning more carbon is stored in the soil and less CO2 is released. Factors like moisture content, acidity, or nutrient content of soils can also influence how quickly plant material decomposes, which makes it quite difficult to predict the actual decomposition of a soil.

For better insight into global CO2 emissions from soils it is important to know more about decomposition in those different soils. Such an insight is important to improve climate models that show CO2 fluxes. To clarify the picture of global decomposition, we need a lot of information on different soil characteristics and related decomposition rates around the world. Large efforts have been taken to create a soil map of the world; however, predictions on the relations between soil an decomposition are often imprecise. It would be a great improvement if we could actually measure decomposition (rate and degree) globally.

We have developed a simple and cheap method to measure decomposition rate and degree by burying everyday tea bags.

As tea is plant material, the weight loss of tea in nylon teabags over time represents the decomposition of the plant material within.. After three months buried in the soil of interest, the bags are dug up, dried and weighed. By burying two types of tea with different decomposition rates, we obtain information on how much and how fast plant material is broken down. In 2014 and 2015 we want to create a global map on decomposition with the help of volunteer researchers, like you, who bury tea for us.

What is the significance of this project?

Efforts have already been taken to map global soil and climate conditions; however an index for decomposition rate is still missing. Predictions of decomposition used in climate models are often imprecise.

Our idea is to use the Tea Bag Index to collect data from around the world to feed databases in the global soil map, and to get as many citizen scientists as possible involved. Our crowdsourcing approach will strengthen our dataset; due to the power-by-numbers principle; and it will increase awareness of soil processes at the same time.

Soil receives very little attention in media coverage of environmental issues, even though its processes are of major importance for our climate. We specifically aim to involve school classes and youth groups as those have shown the highest response and most reliable data so far.

What are the goals of the project?

We hope to use the funds generated through this platform to produce and distribute educational packs and to promote the project.

Educational kits for our citizen scientists will ensure accessibility and standardization of the method. Only when people know what and why they are doing it, they can do it correctly. These kits will include instructions how to do the experiment, flyers that can be used as scales to weigh the tea bags, tea bags, and additional information for teachers.We hope the method will have a higher uptake in classrooms and youth groups where teachers have information on how the experiment links to topics like climate change and soil.

We need to get as many stakeholders as possible interested in our method. Therefore we would like to promote our method at The Global Soil Week 2014 in Berlin. This event is attended by policy makers and educators as well as scientists and has significant media coverage, giving us a great place to showcase. Part of the raised funds will go towards taking the Tea Bag Index to Berlin.This might become one of the largest crowdsourcing efforts to date, so take your chance and get involved now!

Thank you!

Budget

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The budget will be used for

1) creation of educational kits to be tested in 10 different countries
2) creation of a user friendly platform at our web page where the results can easily be seen and compared to other
3) presenting the project at the Global Soil Week 2014 in Berlin, Germany
4) creating a foundation for TBI

Meet the Team

Tea Bag Index Team
Tea Bag Index Team

Affiliates

University of Utrecht, the Netherlands
University of Iceland
Umeå University, Sweden
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, BOKU, Austria
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Team Bio

Taru Lehtinen: I´m a joint PhD student in Soil Science at University of Iceland and BOKU in Austria, focusing on soil organic matter and soil aggregate dynamics on organic and conventional farms. Within the TBI project, I´m trying to get as many schools and youth groups involved as possible, so that we can increase global soil awareness.

Judith Sarneel: In 2010 I finished my PhD on the formation of floating peat mats and now I work in Sweden where I evaluate the restoration of the Vindel river. I got involved with the TBI literally during tea time and now try to recruit as many people as possible to join and discover the world of soils.

Abi Ashton: I graduated in Biology from The University of Aberdeen in 2010. I currently work as a team leader for Edinburgh International Science Festival in Bangalore, India and Abu Dhabi as well as Edinburgh itself. I got involved with TBI when a friend mentioned it to me and the crowdsourcing aspect of the research really appealed.

Joost Keuskamp: I´m a PhD Candidate in Ecology & Biodiversity group at the University of Utrecht. I do ecological research on the consequences of nutrient enrichment to SOM and litter decomposition.

Bas Dingemans: In my PhD-thesis I study how increased nitrogen deposition and global warming will affect the carbon turnover in grassland soils. The main question i discuss: What is the effect of nitrogen addition and soil warming on the degradation rate of recalcitrant litter?

Mariet Hefting: My research focuses on the interactions between plants and soil in the context of cycles of carbon and nitrogen and the response of soil ecosystems to multiple global change drivers. I want to 1) understand the role of living and dead plants on nutrient and carbon cycling processes and 2) understand the effects of nitrogen enrichment and climate change on soil organic matter dynamics.

Tea Bag Index Team

Taru Lehtinen: I´m a joint PhD student in Soil Science at University of Iceland and BOKU in Austria, focusing on soil organic matter and soil aggregate dynamics on organic and conventional farms. Within the TBI project, I´m trying to get as many schools and youth groups involved as possible, so that we can increase global soil awareness.

Judith Sarneel: In 2010 I finished my PhD on the formation of floating peat mats and now I work in Sweden where I evaluate the restoration of the Vindel river. I got involved with the TBI literally during tea time and now try to recruit as many people as possible to join and discover the world of soils.

Abi Ashton: I graduated in Biology from The University of Aberdeen in 2010. I currently work as a team leader for Edinburgh International Science Festival in Bangalore, India and Abu Dhabi as well as Edinburgh itself. I got involved with TBI when a friend mentioned it to me and the crowdsourcing aspect of the research really appealed.

Joost Keuskamp: I´m a PhD Candidate in Ecology & Biodiversity group at the University of Utrecht. I do ecological research on the consequences of nutrient enrichment to SOM and litter decomposition.

Bas Dingemans: In my PhD-thesis I study how increased nitrogen deposition and global warming will affect the carbon turnover in grassland soils. The main question i discuss: What is the effect of nitrogen addition and soil warming on the degradation rate of recalcitrant litter?

Mariet Hefting: My research focuses on the interactions between plants and soil in the context of cycles of carbon and nitrogen and the response of soil ecosystems to multiple global change drivers. I want to 1) understand the role of living and dead plants on nutrient and carbon cycling processes and 2) understand the effects of nitrogen enrichment and climate change on soil organic matter dynamics.


Project Backers

  • 7Backers
  • 4%Funded
  • $375Total Donations
  • $53.57Average Donation
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