There are currently 29 species of earthworm living freely in soils in the UK. They are vital to the economic health of our country, as they are crucial for soil health, food production, waste decomposition and even flood mitigation. They are also a vital food resource for many other species of wildlife. In addition, they were a lifelong obsession of Charles Darwin, and have many fascinating behaviours.
This weekend course will provide an introduction to earthworms as a group, their natural history, how to collect them and how to identify them to species level using microscopes. The course will be a mixture of classroom sessions and fieldwork. The course is suitable for those with an interest in earthworms, and no experience of microscopes or earthworm identification is necessary (but please note that we will be working with dead specimens, which are essential for accurately identifying species). By the end of the weekend participants will:
- Have learnt about the natural history and different ecological roles of earthworms
- Understand what is known about current UK earthworm distribution, and why we need to know more
- Have had experience of field methods for collecting earthworms
- Be able to prepare specimens for investigation under the microscope
- Be able to use keys and microscopes to confirm earthworm species identification
- Know how to record earthworms to the standards of the national recording scheme.
- Know what to do to take their interest further.
Please note that this course will involve collecting and killing specimens for the purposes of identification and generating species records.
This course is heavily subsidised by the FSC BioLinks Project (funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund).
About the tutors
Charlie Bell joined the FSC in Feb 2015 to work on the Tomorrow's Biodiversity project. She now works as the FSC BioLinks Project Officer in the West Midlands.
Charlie's background is in conservation and ecology, and her varied entomological interests include freshwater invertebrates, moths, springtails, earthworms and spiders!
Kerry Calloway first became interested in soil invertebrates when volunteering on biodiversity research projects at the Natural History Museum (London). This included sorting samples of invertebrates to order level and sampling invertebrates across the New Forest in Hampshire and the Malaysian rainforests of Borneo. This is also where she began specialising in earthworms.
Kerry is a trustee for the Earthworm Society of Britain and has been for over 8 years. Kerry is the society Secretary and designs the annual strategy for the recording society. In addition, she regularly runs earthworm identification training courses and events.