Help watch out for worms

24 March 2009

Wildlife Presenter Chris Packham launched the OPAL Soil and Earthworm Survey in Kensington Gardens this week.

Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) is a new nationwide partnership set up to create a new generation of nature-lovers who will discover, enjoy and protect their local environments.

OPAL is led by Imperial College and includes the Natural History Museum, Open University and other universities, parks and the Met Office.

Chris Packham meets Megascolides Australis, one of the world's longest earthworms

Chris Packham meets Megascolides Australis, one of the world's longest earthworms from the Natural History Museum's collection.

Scientists need help with soil and earthworm research so are asking the public to take part in this survey, part of the first community-led study of the natural world.

Earthworms

'Earthworms are really undervalued and few people realise the important job they do keeping the soil under our feet nice and healthy,' says Chris Packham. 

'Surprisingly little is known about the different species or their habitats, so this research will be vital to help scientists understand how earthworms are affected by pollutants in the soil and by human activity.'

Take part

Anyone can take part in the survey by downloading a survey guide and workbook. Most of the items needed for the survey can be found around the home. 

Once completed participants can upload their data on an interactive map, showing what others have found in their area as well as nationally.

Soils

Dr. Nick Voulvoulis of Imperial College London, Director of the OPAL Soil Centre said, 'Soils are taken for granted by the majority of the public, although they are an extremely important part of the environment'. 

'With unique biological, chemical and physical characteristics, soils have many functions that directly benefit our lives and have the ability to support life in them.'

Worm week

For younger nature enthusiasts with a passion for worms, Buglife has also launched Worm Week in support of the OPAL survey. 

The wildlife conservation charity is inviting primary schools to take part in a Worm Charming Competition where children will be asked to use imaginative methods to attract earthworms to the soil surface. The school that charms the most worms will win a free Bug Day for the school.

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