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Transcript of Spermwatch
Why is it important?
Lugworms are a valuable part of the marine ecosystem. They are a main food source for wader birds and fish, circulate nutrients in the sediment, and are used as bait by fishermen.
Capturing Our Coast is a UK-wide citizen science project in which scientists and members of the public are working together to collect information about marine species along our stunning UK coasts
Spermwatch is part of this project, focusing on one of many experimental questions we are trying to tackle:
What controls the reproduction of lugworms around the UK?
Lugworms spend their life burrowed in the sediment. To reproduce, the males release sperm puddles on the surface of the sand when the tide is out. When the tide comes back in, the sperm are washed into female burrows where their eggs are fertilised. Very specific environmental conditions trigger a population to release its sperm and eggs at the same time. Understanding what these “triggers” are can be difficult, as it requires observations from many locations over extended time periods - this is where citizen scientists can help.
Led by Newcastle University, seven training hubs around the coast work together with support from Earthwatch for project coordination
We want to find out when the lugworm breeds in the UK
How can you get involved?
What happens on the shore - conducting a survey
Preparing to survey
1. Prepare your recording sheet
2. Go down to the waterline
2. Start your timed search
3. Get counting!
Spermwatch is part of:
It’s easy to get involved!
Read the instruction booklet
Find a buddy to survey with
Go to a shore (at the right time and day!)
Spend 45 minutes surveying at the water’s edge
Upload your data
This autumn we need your help looking for lugworms, wherever you live on the UK coast
Lugworms are a valuable part of the marine ecosystem. They are a major food source for wader birds, circulate nutrients in the sediment, and are used as bait by fishermen. But they may be suffering impacts from climate change, and we want to find out how.
However, changes to our environment from climate change (and other impacts) could affect the lugworm’s ability to breed, leading to reduced population numbers.
This study will provide unique data into what environmental conditions trigger them to start spawning (release eggs and sperm to reproduce), something scientists have struggled to find out.
Why do we need your help?
We are asking people across the UK to conduct surveys on sandy and muddy shores, looking for lugworm casts and sperm puddles. We need recording to start before the first lugworms release their sperm puddles, so we have a record of when they appear in different places in the UK. Our aim is to find out the exact time when male lugworms release their sperm, and how that varies around the UK coastline.
Data collected by citizen scientists around the whole of the UK will be combined to give us an insight into how the lugworm may be affected by and adapt to climate change.
4. Take pictures
5. Repeat three
6. Go again another day
7. Once home, upload your data online
Download full instructions of how to survey from the website!
Find out more about the programme at
, the lugworm
Lugworm sperm puddle
1) Download the instruction booklet and recording form from the website -
read thoroughly and make sure you understand them before going to the shore
2) Choose a shore -
look for casts to check lugworms
are there! Make sure the shore is safe to survey
3) Surveys need to be completed on certain
dates, at low tide
- details in the instructions
4) You'll need a buddy to survey with
5) You'll need some simple equipment
- a list is provided
Your data is extremely valuable - every survey counts!
Bar tailed godwits feeding © Ian Kirk