Earthworms are vital to healthy ecosystems in the UK. Their role as ecosystem engineers means that they perform a host of ecosystem services – both above and below ground. Despite a widespread understanding of the importance of earthworms, they remain relatively under-studied and under-recorded.
Earthworm training courses help engage new audiences with these under-sung heroes of the soil, and surveying and identification of earthworms help improve our knowledge of how earthworm populations are faring locally and nationally.
Training courses & events
- Earthworm Biology & Ecology training course
- Earthworm Identification with Microscopes training course
- Earthworm Sampling Day
- Earthworm Identification Day
- Bespoke courses/events – contact Keiron to discuss
Training courses and days can be delivered independently or combined to create multi-day or residential training options. For example, the Earthworm Sampling Day and Earthworm ID with Microscopes days could be combined to create an ‘Earthworm ID Weekend’.
Earthworm consultancy services
- Earthworm site surveys
- Earthworm identification services
- Earthworm site species lists – free when other services contracted and records submitted to the National Earthworm Recording Scheme
- Bespoke reports and analysis – contact Keiron to discuss
Training Courses & Events
Earthworm Biology & Ecology
1-day course aimed at absolute beginners introducing the biology and ecology of British earthworms. This course is predominantly classroom-based with a 1-hour field session in the afternoon. Formerly titled ‘Learn To Love Earthworms’.
The course begins in the classroom by defining what an earthworm is and where they sit within the tree of life before introducing how earthworms operate biologically (such as the earthworm life cycle). Other topics covered include the worldwide diversity of earthworms, the role of earthworms as ecosystem engineers, threats to British earthworms and human applications of earthworms. Learners will be taught how to classify British earthworms into different ecological categories based on colour and size, with an afternoon field session to put these skills into practice using live earthworms found in the field. This course is designed to be interactive throughout and is endorsed by the Earthworm Society of Britain.
- £250 per course, including one day of tuition with up to 20 learners and provision of course worksheets (that’s just £12.50 per learner).
- Provision of learner workbooks (including course notes and worksheets) available for an additional cost of £3 per learner.
Earthworm Identification with Microscopes
1-day course designed to teach learners how to identify British earthworms using morphological features using the FSC ‘Key to the earthworms of the UK & Ireland’ and microscopes. The course is entirely classroom/lab-based and each learner will require access to a stereomicroscope with 20x (though preferably 30x) zoom capability.
The course begins with a presentation on annelid taxonomy and the morphological features used to identify British earthworm species. Learners are then taken through a microscope activity to ensure that all learners are comfortable using microscopes. The majority of the course is practical in nature, with learners working their way through a specimen collection that is designed to ensure that they gain experience in identifying a significant proportion of the British fauna. Each species determination is checked by the tutor and guidance on earthworm identification and the use of microscopes is provided throughout the day. This course is endorsed by the Earthworm Society of Britain.
- £250 per course, including one day of tuition for up to 12 learners (that’s under £21 per learner), access to earthworm specimen collection and provision of collection ID worksheet.
- Provision of FSC keys for learners to retain available for an additional cost of £9.50 per learner.
Earthworm Sampling Day
1-day tutor-led event teaching volunteers/staff how to survey for earthworms. Earthworm Sampling Days can be a cost-effective means of undertaking an earthworm site survey through the use of local volunteers (or staff) rather than contracting a team of surveyors.
The day will involve a tutor-led earthworm site survey, with volunteers (or staff) trained and supervised undertaking a number of different earthworm sampling techniques (such as hand-sorted soil pit sampling, mustard extraction sampling and microhabitat searches). Earthworm Sampling Days are a fantastic alternative to contracting earthworm site surveys for projects that aim to engage local communities and/or develop earthworm sampling skills for participants.
- £250 per day, including one day of tuition and sampling supervision for up to 30 participants (that’s under £8.50 per participant).
Earthworm Identification Day
1-day tutor-led event supervising volunteers/staff undertaking identification of earthworm specimens collected through Earthworm Sampling Days.
The day will involve a tutor-led identification session in the lab using microscopes. Participants should have previous experience of earthworm identification (ideally through completion of an Earthworm Identification with Microscopes training course or equivalent). Earthworm Identification Days are a fantastic alternative to contracting identification services for projects that aim to develop the earthworm identification skills of participants.
- £250 per day, including one day of tuition and verification of all species determinations made during the event for up to 15 participants (that’s under £17 per participant).
Survey & Identifcation Services
Earthworm Site Survey
Earthworm site surveys are designed based on the intended objectives and outputs of the client. For example, surveys may be designed to measure differences between sites, changes to earthworm populations over time or to generate an earthworm site species list. All earthworm site surveys include the collection of preserved specimens as identification is not possible in the field or with live earthworms.
Sampling options available:
Hand-sorted soil pit sampling: Standardised sampling method useful for establishing earthworm population size and diversity within soil ecosystems. Less effective for measuring anecic and epigeic earthworm populations.
Mustard extraction sampling: Standardised sampling method useful for detecting anecic species of earthworm. May be combined with hand-sorted soil pit sampling to broaden diversity detected when undertaking standardised survey methods.
Microhabitat searches: Non-standardised sampling method that involves searching any potential earthworm microhabitats outside of the soil (such as compost bins, deadwood, leaf litter). Useful for detecting a wider range of species (including epigeic species) and recommended for the production of comprehensive earthworm site species lists.
- Please contact Keiron to discuss costs. Costs dependant on number of surveyors required and size of survey.
Earthworm Identification Services
Identification of preserved earthworm specimens by Keiron Derek Brown. This may include specimens collected on Earthworm Sampling Days, Earthworm Site Surveys or external sampling initiatives.
- £200 per day, based on identification of 150 specimens per day.
Earthworm Site Species Lists
Earthworm Site Species Lists are 1-page summaries of the species found within a site. They highlight significant finds, such as species considered to be rare and the first time a species has been recorded within a vice county.
- This one is on us! Earthworm Site Species Lists will be produced for free where Keiron has been contracted to deliver any of the above services and/or training courses and the records have been submitted to the National Earthworm Recording Scheme.
He designed the Earthworm ID Training Pathway and has been delivering training courses as an ESB-approved tutor since 2014.
Previous contractors include the Field Studies Council, Tanyptera Project, The Wildlife Trusts and Natural History Museum (London).
Keiron is a supporter of the FAIR principles for scientific data management and stewardship so the following services are only available where all species determinations are submitted as earthworm records to the National Earthworm Recording Scheme under a Creative Commons By Attribution 4.0 licence.