The OPAL National Soil Centre is one of five national centres of expertise under the OPAL project. The centre is based at the Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London, under the overall direction of Dr Nick Voulvoulis.

The centre coordinates the OPAL Soil and Earthworm Survey, which is open to everyone. The survey aims to build a picture of soil quality and earthworm populations all over England. Find out more about how to take part or view the results so far.

Many participants were carrying out a nature survey for the very first time and have provided important data about biodiversity, including information about some places never sampled before by scientists.

The interim findings of the project have been published in OPAL's Community Environment Report

More about the OPAL Soil Centre

Centre Aims

  • Provide information, resources and training on soil quality and soil biodiversity at the community level.
  • Coordinate a national survey to discover the degree of awareness and understanding of soil quality and ecosystems in England.
  • Carry out research into pollution sources and their pathways in soil and the way that they affect soil systems.

Scientific Objectives

The OPAL Soil Centre is coordinating an England-wide survey on soil and their earthworm populations. The survey compliments research the centre is carrying out into soils and soil quality. Research is focused on the interaction with pollution, other environmental media, and human and ecosystem health. The effects of anthropogenic activities including waste and land management practices to soils is an ongoing research theme.

Steering Group

The steering group was set up at the beginning of the project to act as a scientifice advisory body that could help guide and inform the project managers, so that the ultimate aims, goals and objectives could be met. These include the overall OPAL set of objectives.

The steering group is made up of the following members

  • Dr Nick Voulvoulis - OPAL Soil Centre Director and Chair of the Committee
  • Dr Martin Head - Soil Centre Manager and Project Community Scientist
  • Dr Declan Barraclough - Environment Agency Collaborator
  • Dr Paul Eggleton - Natural History Museum Collaborator
  • Cathy Scheib - British Geological Survey Collaborator
  • Dr Linda Davies - Director of OPAL
  • Dr David Jones - Project Earthworm Specialist
  • Dr James Bone - Project Research Officer
  • Prof. Jan Gronow - Soil Centre Advisor
  • Prof. Jane Plant - Soil Centre Advisor

Associate Members

The steering group meets at least annually, or, whenever there is a need to review any major recommended change or progress in the project.

Partners and Collaborators

The OPAL Soil Centre has worked closely with partner organisations in the development of both the survey field pack, and subsequent project-related research work. In particular the Natural History Museum (NHM) has been a close callaborator providing the project's earthworm specialist Dr David Jones, and further expertise from Dr Paul Eggleton and Emma Sherlock. In addition to this, the IT department of the NHM is responsible for the design, creation and maintenance of the main OPAL web portal, via which all survey data is uploaded by participants. Our other close collaborators have been the Environment Agency (EA) and the British Geological Survey (BGS). The EA were particularly involved in helping to design the original set of tasks to be included into the soil properties questionnaire through the input provided by Dr Tatiana Boucard, and have continued to take an active interest through expertise on soil chemistry and related issues provided by Dr Declan Barraclough. More recently the BGS have helped the project by kindly making their G-BASE database available to the project so that survey results can be directly compared to their own scientifically collected soils dataset. This collaborative effort was initiated by Dee Flight, and is now overseen by Catherine Scheib.

Another main contributor to the project has been the Field Studies Council (FSC). The FSC were responsbile for helping to develop the final version of the pull-out guide, and field pack. After the bulk of the content had been developed by the soil centre, the FSC were then heavily involved in making sure the guide and workbook conformed to the OPAL template, which was actually developed as the soil and earthworm survey guide took shape. The FSC were also responsible for the field pack production run, and then for distributing packs to schools and other partners within the OPAL community.

soil project partner organisations