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
Dr Frank Ashwood's passion for nature led him to study Biology at university, where he carried out research projects into invertebrate ecology in Scotland and Mexico. He then worked on a number of UK biodiversity research projects where he carried out identification for various ground invertebrates, before undertaking a PhD studying earthworm ecology on reclaimed landfill sites. Frank now works as a soil ecologist for Forest Research, where he studies soil biodiversity in UK woodlands. In his spare time Frank is a passionate communicator on soil biology, and volunteers as the research officer for the Earthworm Society of Britain.
Keiron Derek Brown first became interested in invertebrates during a field-based entomology module at university and went on to volunteer on soil biodiversity research projects at the Natural History Museum (London). This included sorting samples of inverts to order level and sampling inverts across the New Forest (Hampshire) and the Malaysian rainforests of Borneo. Keiron now manages the FSC BioLinks project, with the aim of inspiring amateur naturalists to take up the identification and recording of invert groups that are often forgotten and rarely recorded. In his spare time he is a trustee of the London Natural History Society and is the national recorder for earthworms (running the National Earthworm Recording Scheme on behalf of the Earthworm Society of Britain).