CT scans reveal underground world of worms

23 May 2017 08:00:00.000

CT images of underground soil structures, created by worms and imaged by the University of Nottingham, are being revealed in a half-term display at the Science Museum in London from 29-31 May. A video of the 3D images can be seen here.

The pictures show in detail the intricate tunnel structures created by earthworms. They are part of a research project involving experts from the Hounsfield Facility in the School of Biosciences and led by Dr Jackie Stroud (@wormscience), a NERC Soil Security Fellow based at Rothamsted Research to look at the impact of different farming techniques on earthworms.

Worms are ‘soil ecosystem engineers’ working to keep soils healthy. They burrow deep into the ground, making air pockets in the soil, which allow the soil to act like a sponge – soaking up the rain to provide water for growing plants. Without those air pockets, rain runs straight off the surface taking some soil with it which can cause flooding.

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Using state-of-the-art equipment, Dr Craig Sturrock, an expert in X-ray Computed Tomography, has created a video clip showing an X-ray CT scan of a pot planted with NASA wheat and containing the anecic earthworm Lumbricus terrestris  that has been burrowing in the soil for a month.

Dr Sturrock said: “Understanding how farming techniques affect living organisms in the soil like worms can help us to protect our soils, and help to limit erosion and flooding. We’re delighted to be sharing the images with the public at the Science Museum, as they provide a fascinating insight into the world beneath our feet!”

You can come and see the soil, the scans and explore earthworm burrows at the Science Museum exhibition ‘To till, or not to till?’ #wormscience exhibit, from 29 – 31st May 2017 from 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the 2017 The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK for research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.

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Story credits

Note to editors: More information is available from Craig Sturrock Nottingham Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham on +44 (0) 115 951 6786, craig.sturrock@nottingham.ac.uk or Lindsay Brooke, Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Science, on +44 (0) 115 951 5751, Lindsay.brooke@nottingham.ac.uk

Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager (Faculty of Science)

Email: jane.icke@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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