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You are browsing an archived site for a previous Northern Spark event. To visit the current site click here.

Monica Haller, Sebastian Muellauer, and Nic Jelinski,
Soil Lab

Soil Lab is a citizen-science project, the first large-scale mapping of urban soils in the Twin Cities. It connects University of MN research scientists and local artists with the public. Have your soil tested and investigate how our designed environments, from the ground underneath us to the architecture of our neighborhood and actions, are connected.

Bring a soil sample from your yard to be tested on the spot by University of MN soil scientists for heavy metals and fertility. Receive results and interpretation that night. While there, get your hands dirty by touching and texturing soil to understand its structure. Discover its geological history and composition using soil monoliths. All-night Soil Lab is facilitated by soil scientists and artists discussing this terrain.

To have your soil tested, please bring a dry, composite sample from your prospective or existing garden space in an open, Ziploc bag to the event. The analysis requires a sample of 2 cups of soil or more and should be taken within the week prior to the testing date.

Here are the steps to follow in taking your soils sample:

  1.    Choose 3-5 locations scattered within your area of interest (i.e. front lawn, back lawn, vegetable garden). Composite samples can be taken from garden spaces/growing spaces. If you want to do lead screening specifically around past or current buildings, or where cars were parked, then consider bringing a separate composite sample for that.
  2.    Remove grass, weeds, leaves from the surface
  3.    Use a clean trowel or shovel, and a clean bucket
  4.    Dig down 3-4” at each of the locations and put the soil in the bucket
  5.    Mix the samples in the bucket, remove rocks and let dry
  6.    Put 2 cups of your mixed soil sample into a plastic bag. Bring your sample and if you are submitting more than one sample you may use a code to identify each sample for your own information. Multiple samples will be accommodated if space and time allows.

Soil Lab is a hub connecting other soil-related arts and actions around the city. So stop by if you are thinking about the soil underneath you. All of this data is charted by an on-site research map, because this year’s Northern Spark event launches a year-long activity that culminates at Northern Spark 2017.


Monica Haller works in long-term collaborations with small groups of people through video, installation, design, sound, photo and writing. Her work focuses on violent and nonviolent activities in human and environmental systems. Current research involves the soil, water and geologic time to know better the earth we live in today.

Sebastian Muellauer is a German/Austrian creator working in the intersection of design, architecture, adequate technologies, nature and human intervention.

Dr. Nic Jelinski is an Assistant Professor (UMN) in the Department of Soil, Water and Climate where his research focuses on determining the spatial and depth distribution of soil properties across landscapes.

This project has been funded in part by the UMN Department of Soil, Water, Climate and The Institute for Advanced Studies.


View more photos from Soil Lab on the Northern Spark Flickr here!


Presented by

Supported by


Mill City Museum Train Shed


9 pm—5:26 am


Monica Haller
(b.) Minneapolis
(works) Minneapolis
Sebastian Muellauer
(works) Berlin/Minneapolis
Dr. Nic Jelinski
(works) Minneapolis