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Source: Bruce Snyder 785-532-2430, basnyder@k-state.edu
Website: http://www.k-state.edu/earthworm/
News release prepared by: Stephanie Jacques, 785-532-0101

Friday, Aug. 27, 2010

FREE EDUCATIONAL EARTHWORM COLLECTION KITS STILL AVAILABLE TO KANSAS TEACHERS

MANHATTAN -- This school year a slew of earthworms will take a journey from moist soil into the young hands of Kansas students, and finally to Kansas State University research labs.

Bruce Snyder, instructor in K-State's Division of Biology, has received the first set of earthworms back from Kansas middle- and high-school classrooms as part of the Earthworms Across Kansas: A Citizen Science Approach to an Invasive Species Survey, funded by a grant from the K-State Center for Engagement and Community Development.

Currently more than 220 free earthworm roundup kits, containing four vials of preserving fluid, collection labels, a pencil, instructions and a return shipping label, have been requested and shipped out to teachers across the state. Snyder, however, still has resources to produce at least 200 more free kits and is continuing to accept requests from interested teachers and home-school instructors.

Teachers can sign up on the Earthworms Across Kansas website, http://www.k-state.edu/earthworm/.

"We'll send kits to newly signed-up teachers as quickly as possible, but they can generally expect to receive the kits in two to three weeks," he said.

The project is designed to meet state academic science benchmarks while giving teachers an opportunity to take their classroom outdoors. In return Snyder will receive valuable data on the distribution of invasive earthworm species in Kansas.

"Earthworms are extremely important to nutrient cycling processes and for decomposition, yet we don’t know much about the distribution of earthworms, especially in Kansas," Snyder said. "What we do know is that approximately one-third of earthworm species documented in the United States aren't native to North America. Some of these species are capable of causing major changes to an entire ecosystem."

In addition to requests for collection kits, the website has distribution maps of the previously known earthworm species and earthworms that have been returned. The website continues to be updated with lesson plans and other resources.

The project is the result of a partnership between the Division of Biology, K-State Research and Extension, K-State departments of communications and entomology, University of Kansas Biodiversity Initiative, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.