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MONet – Soil Function Call


Call will reopen in late fall 2023.

The Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) is seeking soil samples for a recurring call for the Molecular Observation Network (MONet). Through MONet, EMSL is developing a Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR), continental-scale database of soil organic matter molecular composition and soil microstructural properties. The MONet database will be a new resource available to modelers, experimentalists, field scientists, and any other interested researchers. The objective of MONet is to support predictive understanding for next-generation Earth system models that integrate molecular and microscale soil processes to represent regional and continental-scale responses to climate change. As part of MONet, the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) will perform sequencing, metagenome analyses, assembly files, annotation, and bins of MONet samples. Data will be available for download from the EMSL MONet database and through JGI’s portals. The National Science Foundation's National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) will provide a national network of field and observational sites to facilitate sampling and continuous sensing.  



Submit proposal: At least 2 months before first target sample set collection date (spring and fall). For summer and arctic winter sampling, submit proposals at least 3 months in advance. 

Decision notice sent: < 30 days after proposal submission*

(If regulatory compliance review requires more than 30 days, then the decision notice response time will be longer than 30 days.)

Sampling kit sent: 7-10 days before first sample set collection

Selection Criteria and Engagement

The MONet soil characterization program is open to the broad research community, including universities (faculty, postdoctorate, graduate, and undergraduate students), national laboratories, large research projects and networks (e.g., Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments, AmeriFlux, Scientific Focus Areas, Critical Zone Networks, etc.) and citizen scientists. EMSL will accept sample submissions noted in the ecoregions table. Read an Excel spreadsheet version of the ecoregion table. Review the 20 eco-domains of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). (Source: NEON/Battelle) Land that is permanently inundated is out of scope for Soil Function proposals. 

Soil submissions will be evaluated based on representation of ecoregions and of land-use diversity, on environmental compliance, and on the validation of geographic field site locations. Through the MONet call, EMSL invites the scientific community to submit freshly collected soil samples using EMSL-provided materials and standardized protocols for advanced molecular, microstructural, and hydrological characterization following a standardized workflow. Data will be provided to the submitter at no cost through the searchable MONet soil database. Read the MONet data access instructions.

Proposal and Sample Submission

MONet is seeking individual investigators and multi-investigator research teams to submit a sample collection proposal. If approved, EMSL will ship a standardized sampling kit with instructions for recording metadata and collecting soil samples for processing and analysis. Archived or previously collected cores will not be accepted. Up to 6 core collection events can be submitted by individual investigators and up to 21 for multi-investigator research teams. One sampling set consists of paired 30 cm deep cores for biotic and abiotic measurements as well as four 10 cm deep cores to capture surface soil heterogeneity. Review the MONet Soil Function Request Form.

Data Types

Submitted samples will be analyzed using an extensive suite of advanced techniques to produce 24 different data types, including the following:

  • High-resolution molecular composition of soil organic matter
  • Metagenomic sequencing
  • 3D microstructure
  • Hydraulic properties
  • Geochemistry 
  • Respiration, microbial biomass, and potential enzyme activity

For a full list of measured parameters, review the MONet flyer.

Eligible Soil Collection Regions

The goal of MONet soil sampling activity is to accumulate molecular-scale soil data from ecoregions across the United States. Within these ecoregions, we seek samples from different types of land use and geographic locations. Initially, we intend to invite the submission of samples from all ecoregions in the United States. Review the ecoregion table and the Excel spreadsheet version of the ecoregions.

We invite submitters to collect samples at or near existing field research sites where long-term soil, air, groundwater, or surface-water measurements are being conducted and where the resulting data are open and publicly available. MONet uses standardized protocols for soil collection, processing, and analysis.

Environmental Compliance

Soil core submission is required to comply with all federal, state, and local environmental protection regulations. Regulatory compliance must be in place before physical soil sampling. EMSL perform many steps required for environmental compliance. Review the steps in the Environmental and Regulatory Compliance process below.

MONet Environmental Regulatory Workflow: Key steps in the MONet Environmental and Regulatory Compliance process
Review the environmental compliance steps. Access a PDF version of these steps.

Data policy 

Data will be provided to the submitter at no cost through the NEXUS User Portal. Consistent with open science principles, data will be published to the MONet database, where it will be publicly available without embargo, according to EMSL’s Data PolicyRead the MONet data access instructions. 

Participate in the MONet contributor’s consortium 

The MONet Data Consortium is a citable authorship group that contains a collective of authors who have contributed soil cores for analysis and have opted into participation. Consortium participants will be listed as collaborators on papers where the MONet Data Consortium is cited as an author. Cite the “MONet Consortium” as a co-author (some journals may not accept consortium authorships).

How to acknowledge EMSL for submitted soil cores

“Soil core analyses were provided by the Molecular Observation Network (MONet) (project DOI(s)) at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE Office of Science User Facility sponsored by the Biological and Environmental Research program under Contract No. DE-AC05-76RL01830. Data in the MONet open science database can be found here”  

How to acknowledge the MONet database

"The Molecular Observation Network (MONet) database is an open, FAIR, and publicly available compilation of soil molecular and microstructural properties, hosted by the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE Office of Science User Facility sponsored by the Biological and Environmental Research program under Contract No. DE-AC05-76RL01830. The MONet database can be accessed here"

Related Proposal Documents

MONet Proposal Submission Guide

MONet Soil Function Request Form

MONet Flyer

Ecoregion Table 

Excel version of Ecoregion Table


MONet Sample Submission Steps