The last major study of slug diversity and activity in gardens was carried out in the 1940s by entomologists Barnes and Weil (you can read their original papers here and here).

Things have changed since then, both in the way we manage our gardens but also in the slugs present in the UK. Many more species of slug are known to be present and established in Britain since the 1940s, and some species such as the cellar slugs are known to have a changing distribution.

Learning more about which species are present and the most abundant in gardens is important for understanding the impact they may be having and will help inform the advice the RHS gives the public.

We are looking for a minimum of 60 volunteers from all around Britain with access to a garden to take part in a one-year study investigating slug activity in gardens.

You must:
  • Be interested in learning more about slugs and how to identify them
  • Be able to survey a garden at night for 30 minutes once a month for a full year
  • Be willing to collect slugs and send them to our scientist

You will receive:
  • An invitation to a free face to face training course on slug identification (travel costs not covered)
  • All the materials needed for the survey at no cost to you
  • A free FSC guide to identifying slugs
  • Personal correspondence and support from the RHS scientist leading this research

Registering your interest

Applications closed on 2 March 2020 and our scientist should get back to you within one month.
 

Who is running this project?

This project is part of a PhD project by a post-graduate scientist, Imogen Cavadino, with Newcastle University, the Royal Horticultural Society, and the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, who are collaborating to combine their expertise on slug and snail biology, and biological recording.

The overall aim of this project is to identify which species of slug and snail are present in UK gardens, which are causing damage to plants, which may be beneficial, and their abundance. The results of the project will be communicated back to survey participants and published on the web and in horticultural media for the public. It will also be used to improve the advice the RHS gives to the public.
 

How can I let you know I want to take part?

Applications to take part in the project opened on  20 January 2020 and closed at 9am on 2 March 2020. We will use the information you provide to ensure that you understand the commitment we are asking for, and to recruit volunteers from across the UK and different garden types.

By filling in the form, you are agreeing to let us contact you about participating in the survey. Please see the privacy policy section below for more information about how we would handle your personal data. If you have any specific questions or feedback about this form or the “slugs count” survey please email us via: slugscount@rhs.org.uk.
 

Slug hunting after darkWhat are you asking me to do?

We would like you to commit to going out into your garden once a month after dark to walk a set route for 30 minutes, collecting any active slugs as you go. We would then like you to try to identify the slugs to genus or species level if possible, before sending them live to the project scientist. We will provide you with full training on slug identification, an identification guide, and one to one support by email and/or telephone throughout the project. 
 

Can I really post the RHS slugs from my garden?

Only if it has been confirmed that you are participating in the project! Please do not send in unsolicited slugs. If you have been accepted as a participant, only send in material that you have collected following the survey method explained above. You will be sent specific instructions on how to package and send live invertebrates to ensure they arrive safe and well. All postage will be prepaid so there will be no cost to you for this.
 

What happens to the slugs posted to the scientist?

The slugs sent in will be identified to species and checked against the original identifications you have made. Live individuals of some species will be used for a lab-based feeding choice experiment.

Some species require examination of the genitalia to confirm to species level, so where necessary these will be killed humanely and dissected. Tissue samples may also be kept for DNA testing to provide more information on species diversity. Where appropriate, voucher specimens of new or cryptic species may be sent to other institutions to support their research.

All material in good condition when received will be kept for reference in 70% ethanol, with suitable material added to the RHS permanent reference collections housed in our entomology department. These collections are used for research, reference, teaching and educational purposes and are an important scientific resource.
 

What happens to the personal data I send in?

The RHS is carrying out this survey as part of PhD research project to better understand the species of slugs active in gardens and the features that may influence this. We are collecting your data in order to allow our scientists to:
 
  • Contact you to discuss your participation in this project
  • Identify convenient locations for training sessions related to the project and invite you to attend
  • Send you materials required for the survey should you agree to participate
  • Encourage you to submit your data from the surveys you carry out in your garden and provide support for this
  • Contact you with news and updates about the project, including inviting you to event(s) exploring the project results, ask you for feedback, and/or inviting you to sign up to future related research projects at the RHS.

To do this we require your name, home address, email address and telephone number. We feel we have legitimate interest to do so. We will store this personal data for up to five years if you are selected to participate in the project, or six months if you are not selected.

Your personal data will be stored on internal RHS servers with access limited to the project organisers within the RHS’s Plant Health team. Your contact details will not be shared internally with other teams without your permission or with any other organisation except as a legal requirement and will not be transferred outside of the EU.

When you submit your survey records, your name will be included alongside the survey information (including location and time of record) to form the ‘biological record’. We may share the records you submit with partners, including the Conchological Society of Britain and Ireland (you can view their data policy here), and other nature conservation societies in the interests of wider scientific understanding and nature preservation.

These records will include your name as the recorder, but no further contact details. We will ensure that these partners keep your information secure through Data Processing Agreements. Anonymised versions of records with your name removed will be released as open data on the NBN Atlas (a collaborative project that aggregates biodiversity data from around the UK) or to other partner organisations who do not accept our Data Processing Agreement.

If you choose to give your consent, your name would also appear on labels associated with any slugs collected or identified by you and deposited permanently in our reference collection.

The RHS takes its Data Protection responsibility seriously. Please read our full Privacy Policy for more information on how we use your personal data and your rights under Data Protection.

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