Soil liquefaction is a phenomenon where soil that is saturated with water suddenly loses its strength and behaves like a liquid. This usually occurs due to sudden, large stresses on the soil — for example, from an earthquake. This can be very dangerous for buildings sitting on top of the soil, as they can suddenly sink into the ground! The embedded video explains soil liquefaction in more detail.
Is there a way to prevent soil liquefaction? Do you think adding…
What variables contribute to the properties of the soil in an area? Investigate the role of climate, weather, topography, time, parent material, vegetation, and biological and chemical agents on soil formation. How are soils characterized? There are 3 basic particle sizes which create three basic soil types: sand, silt, and clay. Investigate the properties of the three different types of soil by observing grain size, shape, hardness, color, chemical composition, pore space, aeration,…
Visit the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program to find out about global patterns of earthquake incidents (USGS, 2006). Can mapping earthquakes help identify fault lines? They also have a list of science fair project ideas. Another great resource for earthquake-oriented science fair projects is by Jeffery Barker (Barker, 1994). Build a model to study the forces of an earthquake using sandpaper-covered blocks. What are the forces involved? How are stress and friction in balance along a fault line?…
Did you know that waves travel through the Earth's crust all the time? One major source of these waves is earthquakes, although ground motion can also be caused by something man-made, such as a mine blast or nuclear explosion, or other natural events, such as landslides or volcanic activity.
How does an earthquake cause these waves? The entire outer shell of the Earth, known as the lithosphere, is made up of tectonic plates that are constantly moving. There are seven or eight large…
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Familiarity with software and instruments used to collect and analyze data from sound waves is helpful.
A sound generator and amplifier that can connect to a loudspeaker are required. An accelerometer is also needed that can interface with computer software to measure the amplitude of sound waves.
Soils are made of particles of different types and sizes. The space between particles is called pore space. Pore space determines the amount of water that a given volume of soil can hold. Porosity is the percentage of the total volume of soil that consists of pore space. Compare the porosity of different types of soil. Which types of soil hold the most water? Can you see this under a microscope?
The same principles of geology that we use to investigate the Earth can also be applied to other planets. Visit the Astrogeology Research Program at the USGS to find out how information about the geology of other planets can be gathered (USGS, 2006). Can you make a map or model of another planet? What minerals are found on other planets? Which planets have similar composition to the earth? What kind of geological forces occur on other planets? Do other planets have earthquakes, landslides…
Soil may look like a bunch of dirt, but good quality soil is actually a complex mixture of dirt, nutrients, microorganisms, insects and worms. What type of benefit do these microorganisms offer a growing plant? You can test this by baking soil in the oven to sterilize and kill the microorganisms. Do plants grown in sterile soil do better than plants in unsterilized soil? What about adding worms to one plant, but not to the other. Will the plant with worms grow better? Some insects are bad…
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Adult supervision is required when using the oven. Use caution when handling and disposing of mold. Treat molds according to the same safety rules as outlined for bacteria in the .
You can study hazards that affect coastal areas. What geological forces cause a tsunami? A tsunami (Japanese for 'harbor wave') is a wave generated by an undersea earthquake, landslip, or volcanic eruption. You can demonstrate what causes a tsunami by simulating an undersea earthquake with a water table. How does the depth of water effect the height of the wave? Do different slopes of bottom change the speed of the wave? Visit the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program to find out about…
Make your own fertile soil using kitchen scraps, manure, leaves, grass clippings, and other compostable materials. Which materials make the best compost? How does the amount of nitrogen change the rate at which the compost forms? How does a 'hot' compost pile compare to a 'cold' compost pile, or how does traditional composting compare to worm composting, or vermiculture?
Figure 1. Different composting methods yield different soils. In this picture, the soil on the left is vermicompost (the…
No one can deny the devastating consequences of an oil spill on the local wildlife. Oil affects all levels of the ecosystem, from plants to fish and birds. What happens to water plants if you add motor oil to their pot? What is the effect of motor oil on the health of a goldfish, or water insects? What happens to the barbs of a bird feather if they are dipped in oil? Can you test different types of environmentally-friendly detergents for cleaning the bird feathers? Can you test different…
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