April 22, 2024 | Mariesa Sjoberg, YVSC Intern

Hello, I am Mariesa Sjoberg, and I am working with YVSC as the Community Science Soil Moisture Monitoring Project Intern. This project gives local community members the opportunity to become a “moisture mapper” and by collecting soil moisture data. Through this project, I have researched the importance of soil health and its crucial relationship to our snowpack. A larger portion of this project is focused on increasing community involvement in our research and understanding of the ways in which soil health affects our watershed. As an organization, we value direct involvement, awareness, and engagement in conservation as a means of lessening the impacts of climate change and increasing resilience to the effects that we are already seeing. By getting involved with this project, community members will develop a direct connection to important climate information and experience and gain a greater understanding of the Yampa Valley climate. The work done through YVSC gives people the opportunity to engage outdoors in a meaningful way, which studies have shown may help improve mental health. 

A little fresh air and a little dirt goes a long way for well-being. From my personal experience, I feel a deeper connection to the planet and my place when I am interacting with the life and nature around me. A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing showed a positive correlation between mental health and spending time in green spaces. Even in young people ages 1-18, the report found “students learning and playing in school areas such as wooded playgrounds, natural habitats, and gardens were able to find relief from stress, improve focus, build confidence and form supportive social groups.”. It is important to note that many of the participants of this study live in urban areas that created barriers to accessing nature. The study showed that even 30 minutes of outdoor activity can show an improvement and motivation for physical and mental health. McCormick found that “It promotes attention restoration, moderates the impacts of stress, improves behaviors and symptoms of ADHD and is even associated with higher standardized test scores.”

The benefits of our natural landscapes go beyond just enjoying time spent outdoors. There are new studies that are connecting microbes in soil to the chemistry of our brains. According to an article published by CU Boulder Today, there are a “host of bacterial species that play a role in regulating our immune system.” As we interact with microbes, specialized immune cells in our body create groups to form antiviral proteins which fight all kinds of diseases. Insufficient immunoregulation, or antiviral proteins, are linked to neurodevelopmental disorders. By increasing our interactions with soil microbes we may be able to change the chemistry of our brains. We can reduce our cortisol levels and increase our serotonin which leads to happier, healthier, and connected lives.

A great way to spend this much needed time outdoors and in the soil, is with YVSC’s community science projects like soil moisture monitoring.