🩲 Soil Your Undies Challenge

We Want You to Soil Your Undies!


The 2020 Soil Your Undies Challenge is a collaboration between Dr Oliver Knox, CottonInfo, UNE SMART Farms and UNE Discovery, and aims to create broadscale engagement of school age children Australia wide.

‘Soil Your Undies’ is a fun and engaging citizen science project, originally conceived and established by the University of New England (UNE)’s Dr Oliver Knox and CottonInfo. It aims to increase awareness and understanding of soil health, exploring soil health concepts in a novel and fun way, and encouraging participants to share their experiences.

This challenge is an opportunity for citizens to become scientists, and not only collect data themselves, but to learn about soil acidity and alkalinity (pH), temperature, moisture, and the processes whereby the soil breaks down cotton underpants. For Term 4, 2020, Australians can contribute to a broader research project by Dr Oliver Knox and CottonInfo, and engage with UNE for a fun and educational experience. Previously, the campaign has not been run extensively in schools, and we aim to provide educators with the tools to do so.

UNE SMART Farms will drive the technology side of challenge, developing a telemetry system to observe a buried pair of underpants at the UNE SMART Farm, Kirby, via a live stream. This provides an opportunity for challenge participants to view how their underpants might be degrading over time, while also discovering the technology utilised in current research.



Check out the challenge launch with our collaborators!

Curious to know how this is a citizen science project?

There’s all this talk about our Soil Your Undies Challenge being a citizen science project, but how on earth can soiling undies be contributing valuable data to research?
Did you know that there are billions of tiny organisms in just one handful of soil? Some of these critters are called ‘decomposers’ because they eat dead plant and animal material for energy, breaking it down and returning nutrients to the soil for plants to use. We call this process decomposition. Decomposition is a sign of healthy soil because it indicates that nutrients and carbon are cycling through the soil.
Cotton is made of a sugar called cellulose and the tiny decomposers love to eat this, working together to break down the cellulose into smaller sugars they can use for energy. So, by using 100% cotton undies, we can explore how healthy our soils are by looking at how much of the undies are left after two months! If there’s not much left of the undies there is good biological activity, which indicates healthy soil.
By soiling your undies where you live or work, scientists are able to explore soil health around different parts of Australia, and use the data collected for other research projects surrounding soil health. So, become a citizen scientist and soil your undies with us!