Soil Characterization and Quaternary Pedology Laboratory

Lab Services and Rates

Our extensive experience in field and lab-based soil analyses and our collaboration with multiple other labs within DRI allow us to play an important role in supporting numerous research projects and contracts. We make use of instruments available in other labs to broaden the suite of analyses we offer.

Particle size Analysis
We routinely carry out laser particle size analysis of soil, sediment, and suspended sediment samples. The laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation for these analyses, including two laser analyzers – a Malvern Mastersizer 3000 (with both dry and wet sample dispersion units) and a Micromeritics Saturn Digisizer 5200 – and all apparatus required for sample preparation and pretreatment. We also offer traditional particle size analysis methods including standard sieve analysis and the pipette method, using multiple sets of sieves and automatic sieve shakers, as well as specialized glassware.
Other physical analyses offered include moisture content of solid samples, bulk density of soil (using the wax ped methods), and sediment concentration and TSS (Total Suspended Sediment) in suspended sediment samples (water-sediment mixtures).

Chemical Analyses
Within our lab, we have all the equipment for measuring Loss-on-Ignition, carbonate content, pH, and soluble salt content of soils. Collaborations with other labs within DRI also allow us to perform additional chemical analyses including anion and cation analysis using ion chromatography, and Fe oxides measurements using Atomic Absorption Spectrometry.

We have full use of a state-of-the-art X-Ray Diffraction Instrument (Bruker D8 Advance) housed within DAS. Sample preparation including crushing and milling of samples for bulk analysis, and isolation of silt and clay fractions, are carried out within our lab to allow mineralogy characterization of all size fractions of soil, sediment, and rock samples. Saturation of clay isolates with Mg and K ions coupled with heat treatments allow the presence of smelling clays to be detected.

We are closely integrated with the E.L. Cord Luminescence Geochronology Lab, also in DEES, sharing expertise and services, and jointly working on the initial steps of sample preparation for another geochronology technique – cosmogenic nuclide dating. Soil analyses are often important for understanding the environmental conditions (e.g. water content, bulk density) and the stratigraphic context of geochronology samples, which is critical for the interpretation of geochronology data. Since soil development can be used to indicate the relative ages of landforms, our joint services can provide a multi-pronged approach to answering Quaternary geochronology questions.

To submit soil samples to our lab for analysis, please complete the following steps:

  1. View our 2020 analysis rates
  2. Fill out our online Sample submission form
  3. Mail your soil samples to:
    Soil Characterization & Quaternary Pedology Laboratory
    Desert Research Institute
    2215 Raggio Parkway
    Reno, NV 89512
  4. If you will be shipping internationally, please view the International Shipping Instructions.



Eric McDonald, Ph.D.
Lab Director 

Lab email:
Lab phone: 775.673.7430
Contact Form


Desert Research Institute
2215 Raggio Parkway
Reno, NV 89512


Earth & Ecosystem Sciences