We evaluated the efficacy of a mixture of ground hot mustard and water as a sampling method for earthworms (Lumbricina) in research projects involving citizen scientists. To do so we conducted a field experiment to determine if sampling earthworms using mustard-powder would reveal similar patterns of earthworm abundance and community composition as relying on the more difficult to prepare, and possibly hazardous, allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) solution. Earthworms were sampled using either mustard or AITC in four pairs of 0.25-m2 plots located in each of four woodland sites that were predicted to exhibit a range of earthworm densities. Soil gravimetric water content (GWC) of each plot was quantified as a covariate. For analyses of changes in abundance and community structure, earthworms were classified as belonging to one of five groups based on where they occur in the soil profile, developmental stage, and level of taxonomic identification. The two sampling techniques revealed similar earthworm abundances and community composition across the four sites (all Ps > 0.16) and across the range in GWC (all Ps > 0.36). We conclude that using the mustard-water mixture to sample earthworms at our study site appears to be just as effective and reliable as using AITC. The mustard-water mixture, which is easier to prepare and is less hazardous than AITC solution, should, therefore, be considered as an appropriate tool to be utilized by researchers who collaborate with citizen scientists to help collect the large datasets needed to reveal how woodland management and restoration programs affect earthworms.
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Vol. 32 • No. 3