Land Listeners: place-based scientific citizenship

by Didi Pershouse

How do changes in soil health and land management influence flooding, drought, ambient temperatures, runoff, public health, carbon cycling, and local food and water security? Can we harness the power of soil ecosystems to create more resilient communities?

In our Land Listeners effort, students, farmers, conservation professionals, and scientists are all working together--learning to use low-cost monitoring of landscape function, shared listening time, and systems thinking to understand soil biology’s central role in our lives.

Land Listeners includes workshops, school curriculum, and community learning resources that dovetail with our Soil Carbon Challenge, our new Atlas of Biological Work app and map database, and our Climate, Water, Soil and Hope school residency projects.

In addition to learning about whole systems landscape function, soil biology's role in the carbon, water, and nutrient cycles, and soil health principles, participants get to practice hands-on monitoring skills so that they can contribute meaningful, repeatable observations to a public interactive map ( This growing map database will help communities, researchers, watershed groups, and decision makers understand changes in landscape function, find successful innovators, and track results of changing agricultural and environmental policies.

By helping communities to see, monitor, map, and work with whole-systems landscape function we connect basic biology, chemistry, and physics to local and global concerns. We bring together groups of people that usually would have little opportunity to meet, give them hands-on skills to improve the function and productivity of their own watershed, and help them realize how managing for what they need and want, and deep listening are at the heart of healthy, resilient communities.