Fife children encouraged to get their hands dirty for science

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School children in Fife are being asked to look for bugs as part of a scientific study that will map what is under our feet for the first time.

The ‘What’s under your feet?’ activity will be hosted by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and EDF Energy’s award-winning school programme the Pod.

Schools will be able to sign up for instructions and download free curriculum-linked resources. It is hoped that this study will help scientists better understand the impact climate change is having on changing bird populations.

Some of the UK’s best known birds are disappearing - the UK has lost over half of its House Sparrows and Starlings during the last twenty-five years. Also, much of the wildlife that inhabits Britain’s shores is in decline, or under threat. Being at the bottom of the food chain, invertebrates underpin a whole ecosystem that ultimately leads to people, so it is vital that we understand better what we have beneath our feet.

Schoolchildren will be the citizen scientists on the ground, collecting the samples that will be analysed by scientists at the BTO who will then produce the all-important distribution maps.

If every school in Britain and Ireland takes part, the area of soil uncovered will be greater than five whole football pitches with over 150 tonnes of soil inspected and billions of invertebrates ccounted.

Blaise Martay, the scientist in charge of the project at the BTO said, “I’m really excited about this project – soil invertebrates are really important for birds yet we know so little about them, and many of the birds that rely on them are in decline. This project will help us to understand how soil invertebrates are affected by soil and weather and what this means for birds. And the more we know about why some birds are declining, the more we can do to help.

“Schools provide an excellent opportunity to answer these questions. The information collected by schools participating in What’s Under Your Feet? across the length and breadth of the country will enable us to produce the first maps of soil invertebrate distribution and abundance for the UK.”

Even though the first dig won’t take place until September, schools are being asked to register now ensuring that when the time comes they will have everything they need to take part in this ground-breaking survey.

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