Mega-Pit Soil Archive

The NEON Soil Archive is a collection of soil samples taken from soil pits at NEON field sites. Archived soil samples serve as a reference of physical and chemical soil conditions at the time of NEON site construction. The Soil Archive is a community resource: samples may be requested for science and education purposes. The NEON project offers soil data, such as taxonomy and texture, as well as access to physical samples. The Archive is currently housed at NEON Project headquarters in Boulder, Colorado; samples are added to the archive as sites are constructed and samples are available. Throughout the 30-year timeframe of the Observatory, NEON will also collect soil core samples that are archived at external facilities for further validation processes and research purposes. Please visit Soil Sensors and Measurements for more information regarding soil collection methods.

Request megapit soil data

Each soil sample is carefully documented in a metadata document that includes:

  • Latitude, longitude, elevation and sampling date
  • Soil taxonomy, profile description and photos
  • Texture, bulk density and pH
  • Total carbon (C), nitrogen (N), sulfur (S), aluminum (Al), calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), sodium (Na), phosphorous (P), silicon (Si), strontium (Sr), titanium (Ti) and zirconium (Zr)

Request Soil Archive metadata online or by email. When project construction is complete, soil sample data will be available on the NEON Data Portal.


Request physical soil samples

Interim process for NEON Soil Archive requests

A full set of policies and procedures related to the NEON Soil Archive is currently in development. Please use the following interim process to request soil samples. Soil archiving protocols are available upon request. Do not request spare or extra soil material. If a sample is spilled or contaminated after you receive it, contact NEON to get a replacement sample. Submit requests and questions to by email or through the Request Soil online form. In your request, please include:

  1. Your full name and affiliation;
  2. A copy of your USDA-APHIS permit to receive soil;
  3. A brief project objective, description and justification for the use of NEON samples;
  4. A list of each analysis you will perform, the quantity of soil required for each analysis and a justification for the quantity used in each analysis; and
  5. A detailed list of requested samples.

Agreements implied by request submission

By submitting a request, requestors agree to:

  1. Report all publications, presentations or other derived products resulting from the use of the Soil Archive to the NEON project at the contacts listed above;
  2. Acknowledge the NEON project as the provider of samples in any publication or presentation resulting from the request, regardless of authorship; and
  3. Submit any data resulting from the use of Soil Archive samples to the NEON project within one year of receipt of the samples or other time period approved in writing by the NEON project.

NEON suggests that requestors:

  • Cite data use as “NEON Soil Archive: The NEON Project Soil Archive”, or other citation as approved by Battelle;
  • Include a description of the dataset in publications or products, including number of samples used, name of the NEON Project site where samples were obtained and horizons used; and
  • Cite the following documents for the corresponding descriptions:
    • NEON field sampling and collection methods: Ayres E, Zulueta R (2013) TIS Soil Pit Sampling Protocol. NEON.DOC.001307;
    • NEON Soil Archive sample processing: Ayres and Loescher (2012) NEON Field and Lab Procedure and Protocol: TIS Soil Archiving. NEON.DOC.000325; and
    • NEON Soil Archive requestor subsample processing: Ayres E (2013) Subsample collection from the TIS Soil Archive. NEON.DOC.001306.

Permit requirements

All requesters must have a Permit to Receive Soil (PPQ 525) from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), or from an equivalent international service. Find information about the permit at the APHIS website. The NEON soil permit prohibits NEON from sending soil to laboratories that do not have an active permit.

Consideration of request for approval

In order to balance preservation and sample use, request only the minimum amount of soil needed for your study. Any amount of material may be requested; however, the NEON project is more likely to approve requests for smaller quantities of soil per sample. Requests for larger quantities are approved if justified and the aim of the study passes the merit review.

Review process

All Soil Archive requests undergo a review process to evaluate the scientific and quantity justifications by three members of the NEON project science staff. The NEON project evaluates requests to ensure that

  1. A legitimate research project is the basis for the request;
  2. The use of NEON soil samples is important for achieving the study goals; and
  3. The quantity is justified. The NEON project also reviews whether a sample was previously used for the same purpose.

In the event that the request does not pass the merit review for the science justification or if a quantity cannot be agreed upon, a requester may have their request evaluated by an external panel. In order to comply with our soil permit, NEON requests permission in advance from USDA-APHIS to ship soil samples. Please allow 2 months for the processing of all requests.