Worm tracking puts worms in the spotlight

The worm tracking project is studying the distribution of earthworms in Finland and the impact of climate change on it. After enlisting pupils from a hundred schools, the project has proven to be a success. Watch the video to get a worm's-eye perspective!

Where do worms live? How has climate change impacted the distribution and behaviour of worms – and what are likely to be its future impacts? These are the kinds of questions the worm tracking team at the University of Helsinki’s Department of Biosciences is grappling with.

They have enlisted the help of approximately one hundred schools from everywhere in Finland, as far north as Kittilä and Muonio. The pupils have eagerly grabbed their spades and smartphones to join in. The Department of Biosciences has been flooded with positive feedback.

Notes from the underground

The important role of earthworms in our planet’s ecosystems and the circulation of nutrients is often overlooked. It’s easy to ignore the smallest of the small. However, earthworms are very important for the growth of plants, the flow of water, as well as the amount of carbon bound up in the soil.

The Ice Age purged the worms from our soil approximately 12,000 years ago, but they have gradually retaken all of Finland. Or have they? Humans have helped the spread of earthworms but have also had a negative impact on their habitats.

We got to join Mar Cabeza, Justus Mutanen and Aku Korhonen on the grounds of the Viikki Campus as they collected samples. Abhilash Nair showed us around the laboratory.

Concerned earthworm aficionados will be relieved to know that no earthworms will be harmed in the study, and that they will be released back into nature after the samples are collected.