Friday, September 27, 2013

VIDEO: Researchers Study Adirondack Earthworms

ed_kanze_wormWorms, WORMS, WORMS! Sad but true—those lowly, wriggling saints of the natural world, hailed as creators and saviors of the soil since the days of Charles Darwin, are now known to represent an Evil Empire.

Well, maybe not evil. But it turns out that most North American earthworms were introduced from other continents, and the new arrivals, while doing some good in gardens, actually disrupt the ecology of forests, diminish the rich fabric of life in the soil, and even contribute to global warming.

Click here to watch a video of a Colgate University worm study in action in the Adirondack Mountains, as biologist Tim McCay and his students find out which worms are making mischief.

Information on earthworms and earthworm issues can be found all over the internet. Here are some especially relevant ones. Worm, learn, and enjoy!

To learn more about Colgate University’s Tim McCay and his work on earthworms, shrews, and the forest floor ecosystem, click here.

To read a previous Almanack feature article entitled Are Earthworms An Invasive Species? by guest columnist and editor of Northern Woodlands magazine Dave Mance III, click here.

To learn more about the broad earthworm project that is engaging multiple colleges and investigators, click here.

To read about worm research being conducted by Colgate University faculty, click here.

For a short article on earthworms and ecosystems, posted by The Cary Institute of Ecosystems, click here.

To learn how introduced earthworms can increase greenhouse gas emissions, click here.

For a quick crash course in what earthworms are, how they’re put together, and how they live, visit the “Earthworm” Wikipedia page by clicking here.

For a good introduction to the environmental disruptions that arise from the introduction of exotic earthworms to the United States, visit the “Invasive earthworms of North America” Wikipedia page by clicking here.

And finally, just for fun, let Sir David Attenborough, the world’s foremost interpretive naturalist, introduce you to the world’s largest annelid, Australia’s giant Gippsland earthworm (the world’s largest, it can stretch to 72 inches and sometimes more.) Click here to watch.

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Author, naturalist, photographer, columnist, and Adirondack guide Edward Kanze lives along the Saranac River.

His essay about the passenger pigeon, "In Search Of Something Lost," was named by the John Burroughs Association as the Outstanding Published Natural History Essay of 2004. The Burroughs awards, bestowed annually at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, are America's highest honors in nature-writing. The same essay earned a gold medal in environmental writing by the International Regional Magazine Association. PBS featured Ed and his writing in the 2008 documentary, "The Adirondacks."

Ed can be reached by email at For more information, visit

You can listen and subscribe to the All Things Natural with Ed Kanze podcast by clicking at the Mountain Lake PBS website.

2 Responses

  1. Dan Crane says:

    My Masters thesis contained a very small contribution to the research surrounding earthworms, with a third of it devoted to the soil organisms. Although the research was performed in south-central New York and involved plantations to a large extent, I found that mixed forests (having both conifers and deciduous hardwoods in close proximity) had the largest number of earthworms. Therefore, these forests may face the largest impact from the presence of earthworms. This bodes ill for the Adirondacks, where mixed forests are common.

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