Today is Endangered Species Day, which aims to make people aware about endangered species, why they are threatened and how they can be helped. An endangered species is one where its population is especially low, when the last have gone it is classed as extinct. Around the internet today there will be lots of articles on familiar endangered animals such as elephants, rhinos and tigers, but lots of smaller animals, including some earthworms, are also endangered – so I wrote a blog on these neglected animals.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assesses species to see how at risk they are of extinction on its Red List.
After what feels like ages (actually, 5 months is quite a long time!) I have finished my fieldwork, hurrah! I sampled soil and leaf-litter invertebrates, and microbes, in total of 38 sites in 6 different land-use types (deciduous forest, coniferous forest, heathland, pasture, cropland and urban areas) with the aim to compare how species differ between them.
March arrives and it’s time for the annual Natural History Museum (NHM) Student Conference! I am on the student committee and so help with the organisation. There’s a lot to do organising a conference but we learnt from last year and with new members on the team it seemed a lot less stressful this year! Despite the stress and extra work being part of a committee and helping organising a conference is a great opportunity to learn useful skills and make contacts, so I highly recommend getting involved with one if you can.
Talks are compulsory for 3rd year PhD students like me so although I had spoken at the two previous years’ conferences (I need the practice :\ ) I was yet again up on stage. It was quite fun actually as last year I talked about developing my citizen science project Earthworm Watch which was just about to launch, now it has been running a year so I was able to give the first results from the project.
The majority of invertebrates hibernate during the winter, since they do not produce their own body heat like mammals and birds it is too cold for them to be active. However, 10cm under the ground the soil is often a few degrees warmer than the air and many soil animals are still active, including earthworm, so I am still busy out in the cold and rain digging them up for my PhD research – I recently found 16 earthworms from a 20 cm x 20 cm soil pit at a farm where the soil temperature was 4°C!
Frosty but sunny day for earthworm sampling
When temperatures fall below 0°C and water in the soil freezes many earthworms simply burrow into deeper layers where they can survive but earthworms which live on the surface instead rely on chemical defences to tolerate cold temperatures.
Science Uncovered is part of European Researchers’ Night, and is a free annual festival of science held at various institutions across the UK giving the public the opportunity to discover rare items from the Museum collections, meet experts and take part in interactive science stations, debates and behind-the-scenes tours.
This week’s #throwbackthursday looks back at fieldwork as part of the Natural History Museum Soil Biodiversity Group NVC project.
I was able to attend the Bristol Festival of Nature thanks to a grant from the British Ecological Society. I was fortunate to be the first beneficiary of the Regional Funding Scheme which provides support for researchers to undertake public engagement activities.
The Bristol Festival of Nature is the UK’s largest celebration of the natural world with two days of free interactive activities and entertainment across Bristol’s Harbourside. I had a stall in the Green Forum tent in Millenium Square and spent two days talking with the public about soil health and earthworms, with activities including handling and identifying live earthworms and a ‘count the number of earthworms in the wormery’ competition – with a prize for the winner.
This week’s Throwback Thursday looks back at the Earthworm Society of Britain field trip to Richmond Park in 2014.
Last year I blogged about my first visit to the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival. This year I was back – promoting my new citizen science project Earthworm Watch, which I have developed with Earthwatch and the Natural History Museum. This time the Natural History Museum occupied a whole marquee and I attended on the Saturday and Sunday by myself, which was hard work!
I brought along some live earthworms for people to hold which was particularly popular with children. It was heartening to hear more people comment that they were “cute” rather than “yuk”. I gave out leaflets and took several sheets full of email addresses to follow up with more information on Earthworm Watch so I hope it will lead to more recruitment for the project.
On Sunday I presented my new citizen science project Earthworm Watch at two Nature Live events at the Natural History Museum.