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Earthworm citizen science in Finland

Last month we started a large-scale citizen science projectmatologo (http://matoseuranta.it.helsinki.fi/) to collect data on earthworm distributions and genetic variability. Earthworms impact other animals, plant growth, and greenhouse gas emissions, but we have limited data on their current distributions across Finland and little understanding of how they will respond to climate change. The genetic data we collect will help us to assess what species are present and how populations are related to each other.

To kick-off the project, we invited local teachers to attend a sampling demonstration, while teachers from outside Helsinki watched via live-stream. Over 90 schools across the country are participating using a smartphone app and curricular materials available on our website. With a lot of help from GCC and members of the Metapopulation Research Centre, we sent out sampling kits to all schools, which contained mustard powder, instructions, and materials for genetic sampling. The mustard powder is used to extract earthworms from the ground – it causes them to come to the surface of the soil by irritating their skin but does not harm them.

Data are now starting to be submitted! Results will be displayed on a map on our website after data has been checked and verified.


Package assembly during MRC coffee break


Sampling demonstration with teachers


Team’s diversity and interpersonal skills: are they the magic ingredients in successful collaborative ecological research?

A high performance of an individual researcher or a research team is of course a much-desired quality in an academic society today. We all want to produce a good science and of course, present the good side of our personality. It looks like Cheruvelil et al. 2014 might have a recipe for ecologist to achieve such excellence as a team. They suggest that success can be achieved by mixing two magic ingredients: team diversity and great interpersonal skills. They adopt this recipe from the business sectors, education and “science of team science”. They believe that such recipe should make great products in ecology too.
The topic is indeed interesting (well, if it wouldn’t, why would we even pick up this paper), but is it really so that diversity and interpersonal skills are the magic ingredients that will change how teams in ecology collaborate and perform? Continue reading

Impacts of climate change and land use on invasions

Climate change, land use changes, and species invasions are all recognized as key threats to biodiversity but are often examined separately or at small scales.  We discussed the recent paper “Will climate change promote future invasions?” by Bellard et al. 2013 in Global Change Biology, which focused on all three of these issues by looking at the interacting effects of land use and climate change on distributions of 100 invasive species.  This study is unique because it is the first to examine land use and climate change effects on invasive species distributions at a global scale. Continue reading