Sampling Methods & Substrates

At the Earthworm Society of Britain we collate earthworm species occurrence records to help us better understand the distribution, ecology and population health of earthworms. The National Earthworm Recording Scheme was officially launched in 2014 with guidance regarding what information should be collected by biological recorders when making earthworm records.

Two of the pieces of information that we suggest recorders note down are ‘Sampling Method’ and ‘Substrate’. We asked for this information so that we could gain a deeper insight into the ecology of the different species being recorded. For example, knowing that a species was found using mustard sampling tells us that the specimen inhabits the soil.

We’ve now taken the opportunity to review these two fields and ask ourselves a couple of questions, that were answered as follows:

Are we getting the best quality information?

Most of our options for recorders give us a great deal of information about the ecology of the earthworms they are recording. However, one of our ‘Sampling Method’ options really told us nothing about the ecology of earthworms: Casual/Turnover. This was a catch-all option used to cover ad hoc recording, and accounts for a significant number of our recorders’ data. We therefore decided that this option should be expanded to determine which Microhabitat the earthworm was found in and we compiled a list of the most common examples. In addition, we incorporated a Found by Chance option.


“Can we get better quality information making recording more laborious for our recorders?”

There’s no denying that adding in Microhabitat options was going to complicate the system, so we wanted a way to counter-balance this. It occurred to us that by ensuring that the ‘Sampling Method’ options were comprehensive enough we were left with no real need to capture ‘Substrate’ as this information could easily be extracted through the ‘Sampling Method’ field.

This has resulted in the following system being designed to replace the current ‘Sampling Method’ and ‘Substrate’ options. The iRecord Earthworm Survey form and ESB recorder guidance will be published in due course.

Sampling Method Options (2017)

Please note that we still retain any previous sampling method/substrate options, and many more additional options not listed to recorders, behind-the-scenes. So, if you use other methods to collect earthworms or find them in a microhabitat not listed here, just record that in the comments section and our Recording Officer will apply the relevant option when processing the record.