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Environmental Sampling

To develop a basic understanding of the classification and properties of various types of soils by conducting a series of soil tests.


This lab provides for an introduction to the properties of soil and soil analysis including:

· sieve analysis;

· texture;

· particle density;

· bulk density;

· porosity; and

· permeability.


This lab is to be completed in pairs. The write-up for this lab is to be completed individually and is due the week following the lab. Use either your standard laboratory notebooks (carbon copy) or field notebook to record the experimental data. Please upload your final report to DC Connect. Submit your carbon copies or field notebook at the end of the lab period. You must wear a lab coat and safety glasses at all times. Experiments A-G in this lab can be completed in any order.

A. Sieve Analysis

A maximum of two groups can be conducting the sieve analysis at the same time. Each group will require approximately 30 minutes to complete the sieve analysis.

1. Weigh out each empty sieve and bottom pan to be used in the sieve analysis. Duplicate the table on the next page (first four (4) columns only) in your laboratory notebook.

2. Accurately weight out about 500 grams of one of the mixed soil samples.

3. Using a set of nested sieves, place the sieve with the largest openings on the top and the solid pan on the bottom. A typical range of sieve sizes is shown in the following table.

Sieve # Sediment Description Size of Opening (mm)
325 Silt or Clay 0.044
230 Silt 0.063
140 Fine Sand 0.105
60 Medium Sand 0.25
30 Medium Sand 0.60
10 Coarse Sand 2.00
4 Very Fine Gravel (granule) 4.76

4. Dump the sample into the top of the set of sieves.

5. Place the sieve stack in the mechanical shaker and shake for 5 minutes.

6. Remove the stack from the shaker and carefully weigh and record the weight of each sieve and the bottom pan with its retained soil.

7. Before discarding the soil, verify your results by ensuring the initial weight of the soil is consistent with the total mass of the soil retained in the sieves.

Sieve size


Mass of Empty Sieve (g) Mass of Sieve + Soil (g) Mass of Soil (g) %

of total mass






Notes: 1 % Retained is cumulative. For example if 3% of the total mass of the soil is collected on size 4 sieve and an additional 5% of the total mass of the soil is collected on the size 10 sieve, the % retained is 8% (5%+3% =8%).

% Passing is the opposite of the % Retained. In this example, 92% of the soil passed through the sieve (100% – 8% = 92%).

(Steps 8, 9 and 10 are to be done after lab and included in your report under “Calculations”).

8. Make a graph of percent passing versus grain size (mm) on semi-log paper for the soil sample

9. Identify the percentage of gravel, sand, silt and clay for the sample. For calculation purposes, assume that 20% of the silt/clay mixture is clay and 80% is silt.

10. Excluding the percentage of gravel in the sample, recalculate the percentage of sand, silt and clay. (The total of sand, silt and clay should now be 100%)

11. Use the texture triangle to determine the soil type for the sample based on percentages of sand, silt and clay calculated in step 10.

B. Texture

1. Obtain small amount (about a tablespoon) of each of the five (5) soil samples (clay, fine sand, medium sand, coarse sand and gravel).

2. Observe and feel each sample and describe the texture (gritty, smooth, powdery, sticky, etc.) and colour of each.

3. Add a few drops of water to each soil sample and try to knead the sample into a ribbon (e.g., snake) by rolling it between the thumb and forefinger.

4. Record which samples would form a ribbon, a partial ribbon or a good ribbon.

5. Classify the soil according to the following three groupings:

· does not form a ribbon – coarse textured (sandy loams, sands)

· forms a partial ribbon – medium textured (loams, silt loams and silts)

· forms a good ribbon – fine textured (clay loams, clay)

6. Dispose of the soil into the dry soil bucket

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