New earthworm species discovered in Fairbanks

By  | 

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - A local high school student helped discover a new species of earthworm native to Alaska.
West Valley High school student, Megan Booysen, collected the worms around various places in Fairbanks for her Advanced Placement Biology class.
Booysen worked with University of Alaska Museum of the North, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service researchers, to help describe five species - with one species belonging solely to the Interior of Alaska.
UAMN Insect curator, Derek Sikes, said this data will bring attention to an area not previously studied.
Biologist for the Kenai Wildlife Refuge, Matt Bowser, said initially, he thought the worms were from Europe.
“Up until now we thought that all the earth worms except there's one potential exception in south east Alaska, but in Interior Alaska and South Central, all the earth worms we saw, we thought were introduced from the old world, from Europe. That's something that in our understanding was changed when we realized that one widespread worm here is native,” he said.
Booysen and Sikes were joined in the study by co-authors Bowser, and Robin Andrews, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biology and Wildlife at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.