• Earthworm diving into the ground. (Photo: S. Shepherd/Creative Commons)

If you’re in Alberta this spring, and spot people peering intently at the ground, a tape measure in one hand, a smartphone in the other, muttering words such as “epigeic,” “endogeic” or “anecic,” don’t be alarmed.

While they might appear to be Latin-speaking surveyors, it’s far more likely that they’re citizen scientists searching for the three main types of earthworm, a creature that’s invading the province’s northern forests and damaging the leaf layer that helps support bird, plant, mammal and insect species.

The data they collect — numbers, measurements and photographs — will be passed on to the Alberta Worm Invasion Project, the brainchild of Erin Cameron, who has a PhD in ecology from the University of Alberta, and Erin Bayne, Cameron’s former supervisor at the university.

The project is meant to raise awareness about the earthworms, which are not native to most of Canada and were most likely introduced by European settlers. “We definitely hope that a lot of people will participate,” Cameron told the Edmonton Journal.

As part of the project, Cameron and her colleagues have created a Worm Tracker app (available on iTunes), into which citizen scientists enter their worm data. The information is then plotted on a Google Earth map.

For more information on earthworms in Alberta, including a field guide and educational materials, click here.