The Soil is Alive

Presented by: Gustavus Adolphus College

There are more organisms in a handful of soil than there are people on Earth, than there are stars in the sky.

Let that sink in for a moment.

“It really is a universe,” says Laura Triplett, geology and environmental studies professor at Gustavus. Rocks, air, water—we could all come up with a shortlist of items found in soil. But there’s so much more. “And it’s not at all dead,” says Triplett. “By definition, soil is alive, with biological processes, chemical processes, and geologic processes.”You will need a hard surface for children to build upon such as a patio, deck or driveway. Or consider purchasing a plastic builder’s mixing tray from your local hardware store.    

The scope of life contained in the world’s soil is so vast that scientists are just now beginning to understand it. And the more they discover, the more we can see soil’s potential to help and heal our environment, our food and agricultural systems, and our bodies.An added benefit to using large items during outdoor playtime is they often inspire collaboration and teamwork to build forts, stages, trains, etc.—skills that are valuable in school and in life!

Soil may be a very thin layer on our planet, but it is an integral base layer of life. “Soil is the basis of all life as we know it,” says Nobel Prize recipient and scientist Rattan Lal. And at this moment in our scientific history, you might say we are on the ground level of discovery of soil’s potential, propelled by new scientific understandings of life at the smallest level. With new knowledge of soil, we are imagining answers for some of the world’s greatest challenges—from how to grow the most nutritious food to how to combat climate change.

Here in Minnesota, we are blessed with some of the richest soil on Earth, which drives much of our state’s economy. Through science, we are now uncovering soil’s importance to all life, and its tremendous impact on our health, our food, and our planet.

The Nobel Conference brings students, educators, and members of the general public together with the leading thinkers of our time to explore revolutionary, transformative, and pressing scientific questions and the ethical issues that arise with them.


Nobel Conference 54

October 2 & 3, 2018 | Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Peter, MN 

Tickets at or call 507-933-7520

“If there is any place in the universe where death becomes life, it is in the soil.” —Rattan Lal, Nobel Prize recipient and presenter at this year’s Nobel Conference