News Features

Earthworms: An Invasive Species

K-State Engagement E-News, January/February 2010 (PDF)

by Mindy Von Elling

Bruce Snyder, instructor of biology, holds up an earthworm. This is one of many species not native to America in Kansas

Bruce Snyder, instructor of biology, holds up an earthworm. This is one of many
species not native to America in Kansas

According to Bruce Snyder, Kansas State University instructor of biology, earthworms are a constantly misunderstood creature and aide to our environment. As principle investigator of the project, "Earthworms across Kansas: a citizen science approach to an invasive species survey," Snyder hopes to use citizen scientists and students to collect data and raise awareness about the ethological importance of earthworms and the presence of those not native to America in our own backyards.

The surveying project consists of the collaboration of middle and high school teachers (citizen scientists) and their students to collect earthworms, record data and ship them back to the principle investigators of the project for further examination. All information about the earthworms is projected to appear on a publicly-accessible website to allow community members and all involved with the data collection to see the results of the project, including the extent of earthworm species in Kansas and information resources about earthworms in general.

According to the project's grant proposal, the success of the project will be measured by the response of the community. There is a limited interest and knowledge in soil fauna and invasive species (species not native to America) so the most important result of the project will be connecting the earthworm collecting experience to the concept of invasive species. The ultimate goal of the project is to serve as a pilot study for a broader effort, eventually including all of America.

Funding for this investigative project was awarded by the Center for Engagement and Community Development in the fall of 2009 and the survey will be a collaborative effort. Bruce Snyder will be the principle investigator and will be joined by on-campus collaborators Christopher Lavergne, communications, and Greg Zolnerowich, entomology. Off-campus collaborators include Sam James, K-State Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Institute, and Mac Callaham, USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station.