Taming the wilds of Central Park

Last week we successfully collected 595 samples from across Central Park in New York City. I described this huge undertaking in my previous post, so you can find out a bit more here about collaborators and sampling scheme.

Briefly, we collected soil samples, from 15 points across each of the 51 blocks running west to east in Central Park. For those of you not familiar with CP, the park is ½ mile wide and 3 miles long (51 blocks)! The park is not continuous however. There is quite a bit of rugged terrain- rock outcroppings, sports fields with 7 foot tall fences, the Met, ponds, children, fountains, dogs, cars, bikes, yoga stroller classes, Shakespeare in the park, bridges, waterfalls, music stages, merry-go-rounds… you get the idea. Check out our photos here for shots of us sampling in the wild.

We had 10 participants split between four groups, each sampling a roughly equivalent section of the park. Beginning on the steps of the Museum, we split up into groups of two and three, double checked the GPS units, measured out 5cm on our corers with sharpies and tape, and gathered cell phone numbers mostly to facilitate friendly competition throughout the day.

The first hour was slow, as each group found a sampling routine and adjusted to the rugged terrain. Then the pace started to pick up and sampling was flurried in the next 4-5 hours. By 1 p.m. the groups across the park were slowing. High humidity accompanied by 90° temperature, will do that. My group was motivated by a stop at an ice cream stand, others were not as lucky to find refreshments and were tempted instead by fountains. Still, we finished the last of the sampling by 6:30 p.m. and had all the samples safely stored in the museum by 7 p.m.! 12 hours of sweating, a few minor scrapes and bruises, a bit of heat exhaustion, but success! Really this is a huge accomplishment for one day- 600 samples... I still am in awe that we actually finished!

Wednesday after the sampling, we met again at the Museum. This time to sieve all the samples! Sieving is a monotonous process at best- take soil out of bag, sieve, separate, repeat. During the craziness of sieving we entered GPS points and a few volunteers collected water samples from all the major bodies of water in the park. Check out this sweet google map. All the samples are now ready to be processed! We will soon begin analyzing soil characteristics- pH, nutrients, moisture and microbial biomass and this fall we will sequence all soils and water samples.


This was really a fantastic sampling effort, and without the cooperation and determination of everyone involved we could not have pulled it off. Thanks again to Susan Perkins, our linchpin at the museum and Liz Johnson.

Stay tuned for more on this project and if you have questions on this project please contact me at Kelly.Ramirez@colostate.edu.