Scientists from Central and South America visited northern Michigan at the end of July to learn more about soil carbon measurement. "Knowing how to detect and measure soil carbon accurately matters for understanding [a country's] carbon footprint," says Luke Nave, a University of Michigan Assistant Research Scientist.

Nave, who works at the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS) partnered with the US Forest Service to host the "Below-Ground Carbon Accounting Study Tour." Participants were from Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico and Peru. The Forest Service's International Programs division organized the tour to facilitate skills sharing among  the countries' scientists and specialists at UMBS.

"The Biological Station is a recognized leader in carbon cycling," Nave says.  Several of the Station's major research projects look at how carbon and other components of greenhouse gas move through the environment.  Most people have heard of carbon dioxide (CO2) as a culprit gas in global warming.  But most carbon isn't in the air. "It's in the soils," Nave says.  "And if you throw in plant roots, there's even more."

Nave and other UMBS researchers led field trips to sites on the Station's property near Pellston, Michigan as well as to the Upper Peninsula.  By seeing what collection and measuring techniques worked best on different types of soils, Nave says, "Visiting scientists should leave with the ability to more accurately measure and report what's happening in the soils of their countries."

Including translators and Forest Service staff, the tour numbered twenty people. The International Soil Carbon Network helped facilitate the July 28-August 2 event.