For a wriggling and slimy invertebrate, earthworms have a good reputation. Most people recognise that earthworms are important, but few understand the true power of these ecosystem engineers or even that not all earthworms are the same.

Find out how different types of earthworm perform different ecological roles and be prepared to be surprised at some of the natural processes that earthworms contribute to. This course will arm beginners with the underpinning knowledge needed of earthworm biology, ecology, behaviour and diversity to embark on their earthworm journey, as well as putting this knowledge into practice by finding earthworms in their natural habitat and categorising them into one of four ecological categories.

  • 4-week online course for adults, with a weekly time commitment of 3-5 hours per week.
  • Access to study content, activities and tutor-graded assignments through the FSC virtual learning platform.
  • Access to weekly live virtual classroom sessions at the end of each week with the course tutor through Zoom (recorded for those that are unable to attend the live sessions).
  • E-certificate upon course completion.
  • Endorsed by the Earthworm Society of Britain.
  • Learners will need to have access to and be able to use a spade (or have someone willing to help) to fully complete this course.
  • Please note that this course is NOT a species identification course and will only go as far as categorising British earthworm species into 4 ecological categories.
  • Please email [email protected] if you have any questions.

What topics are covered in this course?

  • SIN101 Earthworm Biology will start with what makes an earthworm an earthworm and where earthworms fit within the tree of life. We will then provide an introduction to the biology of earthworms, including their anatomy and some of the biological processes occurring within the earthworm.
  • SIN102 Earthworm Ecology & Behaviour will explore the role of earthworms within the ecosystems that they inhabit. We will start with the findings of Charles Darwin regarding earthworm intelligence and the role of earthworms in bioturbation. We will then move on to various behaviours of earthworms, including burrowing, dormancy and dispersal.
  • SIN103 Earthworm Diversity will explore how British and Irish earthworms can be categorised by their ecology and behaviour into 4 ecological categories, with guidance on how to determine the ecological category an earthworm belongs to in the field based on the size, colour and pigmentation of an earthworm. We will then look a little further afield and discuss the diversity of earthworms globally, with a look at some amazing species found outside of the British Isles and the impact of British & Irish earthworms in ecosystems they have been introduced to abroad.
  • SIN104 Finding Earthworms will put the things that we’ve learned about earthworms into practice and look for earthworms in their habitats. This will involve looking for earthworms and earthworm field signs in your garden or allotment (or local park). We will ask you to search above-ground habitats for earthworms and look for earthworm field signs.

Course fees

Regular Price: £60   For professionals and residents outside of the UK.  Select ‘Attendee (Online)’.

Subsidised Price: £20   Subsidised by the FSC Biolinks project for Earthworm Society of Britain members and non-professionals eg. volunteers, biological recorders, wildlife gardeners, amateur naturalists and students.Available to UK residents only.   Select ‘Attendee Discounted (Online)’

Tutor: Kerry Calloway

Kerry first became interested in soil invertebrates when volunteering on biodiversity research projects at the Natural History Museum (London). This included sorting samples of invertebrates to order level and sampling invertebrates across the New Forest in Hampshire and the Malaysian rainforests of Borneo. This is also where she began specialising in earthworms.

Kerry is a trustee for the Earthworm Society of Britain and has been for over 8 years. Kerry is the society Secretary and designs the annual strategy for the recording society. In addition, she regularly runs earthworm identification training courses and events.

Tutor: Keiron Brown

Keiron Derek Brown first became interested in invertebrates during a field-based entomology module at university and went on to volunteer on soil biodiversity research projects at the Natural History Museum (London). This included sorting samples of invertebrates to order level and sampling invertebrates across the New Forest in Hampshire and the Malaysian rainforests of Borneo.

In his spare time, he is the national recorder for earthworms (running the National Earthworm Recording Scheme on behalf of the Earthworm Society of Britain) and the Chair of the Ecology & Entomology section of the London Natural History Society. Keiron now manages the FSC BioLinks project, with the aim of inspiring amateur naturalists to take up the identification and recording of invertebrate groups that are often forgotten and rarely recorded. The courses Keiron teaches include Discovering iRecord, Identifying Terrestrial Invertebrates with Microscopes and our various earthworm courses.

Live virtual classroom session dates and times

The webinars will take place every Tuesday for the duration of the course:

  • Week 1: Tuesday 1st November 2022, 7:00 pm - 7:45 pm
  • Week 2: Tuesday 8th November 2022, 7:00 pm - 7:45 pm
  • Week 3: Tuesday 15th November 2022, 7:00 pm - 7:45 pm
  • Week 4: Tuesday  22nd November 2022, 7:00 pm - 7:45 pm

The live webinars will be recorded for those that cannot make the session.

Learner reviews

"I particularly enjoyed the units on earthworm diversity and ecological categories which gave me a greater appreciation of signs and earthworm activity and broad categorisation of worms I see when gardening. I’ve always been very interested in the dynamics of worm populations in compost bins and actively manage three composting systems to optimise the composting rate.

I’d certainly recommend this course for anyone managing an allotment or gardening for vegetables at home. With the popularity of both these activities for mental health/exercise during lockdown and self-sustainability post-Brexit, I would think these excellent target groups to engage."

Leon Stone

 

"I thoroughly enjoyed the course Discovering Earthworms. Before joining the course, I knew little about earthworms. In March 2021, I discovered that my allotment was contaminated with Australian flatworms (a non-native earthworm predator) and I was concerned about how the earthworm population would be affected. When desperately searching the internet for a solution to control the flatworms, I came across the FSC and a wide range of courses it offers including the one on earthworms.

Through the course, I learned the earthworm’s biology, different groups of earthworms and their contributions to the ecosystem. The course showed me that earthworms are among those most important, incredible, and fascinating creatures on earth! I also learned the different negative factors that could impact on earthworm population and the method of sampling and monitoring earthworms in the soil. The course has certainly motivated me to learn more about the earthworms and do things differently to support the earthworms to survive and thrive."

Yan Wang

 

"Discovering Earthworms gave me a huge affection for worms! And the assignments were a real eye-opener into the condition of the soil in my garden. I was kind of disappointed not to have more anecic and epigeic worms when I try to be so ecologically friendly. I haven’t been very religious with my mulching and my soil was quite sandy and dry so I will definitely be trying to build up the population in my garden by putting down more mulch.

I love now knowing about the different types of worm, I’m able to tell juveniles from adults, the amount of work and the webinars were all the right sort of length.
It’s made me think about conservation. It’s made me sign up for other courses. I have now considered becoming a conservation volunteer. So much more interesting than being an accountant."

Lesley White - Wildlife enthusiast, gardener for wildlife, animal lover

Example Timetable

Week 1: SIN101 Earthworm Biology

Self-study material available: 25/10/2022 at 9:00 am
Week 1 Live Webinar: 01/11/2022 at 7:00 pm

By the end of this topic learners should have:

  • An understanding of the basics of earthworm taxonomy and be able to describe where they fit into the animal kingdom.
  • The ability to describe the basic internal and external features of an earthworm.
  • An understanding of some of the biological systems important for earthworms, including reproduction, respiration and locomotion.

Week 2: SIN102 Earthworm Ecology and Behaviour

Self-study material available: 01/11/2022 at 7pm
Assignments due: 06/11/2022 at 7:00 pm
Week 2 Live Webinar: 08/11/2022 at 7:00 pm

By the end of this topic learners should have:

  • An understanding of the effects and impacts that earthworm burrows, bioturbation, burial, middens and casts have.
  • An understanding of the research that has been implemented investigating intelligence and consciousness in earthworms.
  • An understanding of earthworm behaviour and the ways in which earthworms respond to different environmental pressures.

Week 3: SIN103 Earthworm Diversity

Self-study material available: 08/11/2022 at 7:00 pm
Week 3 Live Webinar: 15/11/2022 at 7:00 pm

By the end of this topic learners should have:

  • An understanding of earthworm diversity both worldwide and within the UK.
  • Be able to describe the differences between the 4 broad ecological groups of earthworms.
  • Be able to give examples of species of earthworm from around the world.
  • Have the ability to name examples of invasive non-native species of worm.

Week 4: SIN104 Finding Earthworms

Self-study material available: 15/11/2022 at 7:00pm
Assignments due: 20/11/2022 at 7:00 pm
Week 4 Live Webinar: 22/11/2022 at 7:00 pm

It is recommended that you have attempted the assignment before the week 4 live webinar as this will be based on troubleshooting and discussing finds.

By the end of this topic learners should have:

  • An understanding of earthworm habitats that worms can be found in.
  • Be able to find examples of the 4 broad ecological groups of earthworms.
  • Be able to recognise field signs of earthworm activity.

Final deadline

The final deadline to complete any outstanding assignments and self-study components is 29/11/2022 at 7:00 pm.

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition
  • Access to study content, activities and tutor-graded assignments through the FSC virtual learning platform.
  • Access to weekly live virtual classroom sessions at the end of each week with the course tutor through Zoom (recorded for those that are unable to attend the live sessions).
  • E-certificate upon course completion.

Bursaries and Subsidies

FSC BioLinks

FSC BioLinks is an exciting project for FSC in the South East and West Midlands, bringing together existing volunteers with skills in biological recording and identification, and new volunteers.

This project provides subsidised training courses, learning opportunities and digital tools focussed on invertebrate identification for anyone involved or interested in biological recording, to build and strengthen the community.

Invertebrates provide us with many useful ecosystem services, like pollination and decomposition, which we cannot survive without but their numbers are declining. Few people know how to identify or record invertebrates meaning there is a lack of data

We are delighted to have been awarded a grant of £1.23 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for this project.

Before You Attend

Once you've signed up to the course you'll receive an e-mail with access to the virtual learning platform (Moodle) a week before the first webinar.

Log on as soon as you can to familiarise yourself with the platform and course materials, and be sure to complete the first activities before the first webinar.

Webinars are delivered through Zoom, so you don't need to download any additional software to attend - just click the link just before the meeting is due to start and it will open in your web browser.

Learners will need to have access to and be able to use a spade (or have someone willing to help) to fully complete this course.

Clear

If you would like to purchase a user licence for multiple school sites please contact us.