Have you ever thought about the soil beneath the ground you stand on? Did you know that the rise and fall of civilisations depends on the quality of soils? Did you know that there are more living things in one teaspoon of soil than there are people on the planet?

To celebrate 2015 as the International Year of Soils, we introduced our readers to an excellent resource telling you ten key things you should know about soil. If that left you with an appetite for more, then the online course from FutureLearn, Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet, is an excellent place to start.

Carly Stevens, lecturer at Lancaster University’s Environment Centre and an educator for the course, says: “Soils are amazing. They’re complex and full of life and yet few of us give soils a second thought.”

This course begins by covering the basics of soil science, what soils are made of and how they form. It then goes deeper into exploring the life that exists within the soil, which plays a huge role in how healthy it is. The healthier the soil, the more carbon it holds.

The course also looks at how and why soils are under threat at both a local and global level and why we need to do more to protect them. It covers questions such as:

  • What is soil made of?
  • Why are soil microbes so important?
  • How does the rise and fall of civilisations depend on soils?
  • How is climate change impacting on soils?

As the course is provided by Lancaster University, participants will gain an insight into the cutting edge research currently taking place at the university.

Students will have the opportunity to join discussions, take part in quizzes and get their hands dirty with activities relating to the soil where they live.

The course lasts for four weeks and requires only three hours per week of your time. By the end of it, you should have gained a basic understanding of soil science and some of the threats facing our soils.

You don’t need specialist knowledge or expertise, but it would be perfect for those who have an interest in soils, biology, geography and environmental science.

It’s time that we stop treating soils like dirt. The course will begin on 6th July 2015. To sign up, click here.

Photograph: NRCS Soil Health

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