My name is Anthony and you may have seen me, along with my colleague Victoria Burton and others talking to you about Earthworm Watch at locations across the country. I joined the Earthworm Watch team last July as the Community Engagement Co-ordinator for Earthwatch. My role is to develop content and communications and organise and deliver learning and engagement events to raise awareness of Earthwatch’s projects, such as Earthworm Watch to our public audiences.
It comes as no surprise now, come to think of it, that I’m working with you, the public, on a project involving earthworms. Earthworms, I think, like many invertebrates are the unsung heroes of the natural world. Without earthworms, beetles, spiders and a whole host of others, along with fungi and bacteria, our soils and plants could not flourish. Earthworm Watch is trying to understand the important role that earthworm species play in different soils and what services they provide for us free of charge through their activities. These include improving soil productivity through their burrowing and breaking down of organic matter, storing carbon by taking decomposing leaf litter deep deeper into the soil and preventing flooding by creating spaces for air and water.
I think I was always fascinated by nature and from a young age could be found exploring the garden for spiders and woodlouse and picking up earthworms (though thankfully not eating them!). It is therefore not unusual to me now that my career in science began with a degree in archaeology, uncovering what was under my feet. I was particularly interested in how human beings interacted with animals and used natural resources in the past. After a teaching qualification at Exeter University, I followed my passion for natural history working with museum collections at Plymouth and Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museums and delivering education and outreach activities.
In 2010, I joined The Natural History Museum as a Science Educator and in 2015, I was chosen for the Identification Trainers for the Future Programme, created to develop the next generation of individuals passionate about teaching others about UK wildlife, its identification and recording. I studied the identification of UK biodiversity from earthworms to beetles, moths to fungi through fieldwork at the museum with scientists and field ecologists. Having charmed earthworms for events and been inspired by earthworm scientist Emma Sherlock at the museum, I became a member of the Earthworm Society of Britain to help improve the public’s awareness of these amazing creatures.
Through the traineeship, I was able to continue my passion for connecting with public audiences to explore my interest in UK biodiversity and recording schemes such as Big Seaweed Search with the team at the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity. I really enjoyed organising public events exploring the museum’s collections and assisting with the delivery of bioblitzs’, festivals and learning activities for families and schools. My role at Earthwatch and involvement in Earthworm Watch allows me to to do this, encouraging people of all ages to take part and gather scientific data that will help us understand, record and therefore conserve our wildlife for future generations.
Read our upcoming newsletters and check our website to find out about chances for you to take part in Earthworm Watch events around the UK and meet other members of the team.