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Today we start a new and exciting challenge associated with the HOOKaWORM research project and also as part of the Terra Preta de Indio network activities. A scientific expedition will be performed by a team of four, with Andre Junqueira (experienced ethnoecologist), Marie Bartz (earthworm taxonomy expert), Sara Deambrozi Coelho, (Ecology, M.Sc. Student) and myself. One of our objectives is to map some unrecorded areas of Amazonian Dark Earths (ADEs) (in Portuguese named Terra Preta de Indio) along the Madeira River but also to re-visit some others. We also intend to hunt a specific animal associated with historical and modern human activity, a humble earthworm species.

Briefly, the primary objective of the HOOKaWORM project is to provide the needed inventory on soil biodiversity associated with historical anthropic ecosystems, in particular, the ADEs. One of the specific objectives of such project is to assess the dynamics of recent and historical human settlements and their influence on genetic diversity, using as a model, a species associated with anthropic disturbance, the peregrine earthworm Pontoscolex corethrurus. It is believed that the natural range and origin of this earthworm species is the Guyana shield. This objective aims to use genomic approaches to tracking the distribution of this species across Amazonia, and investigate if this information can be used to test between competing hypotheses of ancient human movement.

Secondly, a further expedition transect will be pursued later on this year, with the intention of gathering animals from Guyana shield (Brasil, Guyana and Venezuela) and use those as a contrast to our human-mediated dispersion model. The idea is that by sampling the natural dispersion range of this species, we will be able to contrast and better identify the patterns left by the human-mediated transference.

So, we are planning to fly (using Apui air Taxi) from Manaus to Manicore by the 23rd June 2017 (tomorrow). Starting the expedition by leaving Manicore and going a bit up the river to Campana Grande reserve. As soon as we arrive and after talking to the community there, we intend to perform some earthworm hunting, and hopefully find some soil animals, maybe some giant Earthworms (yes, it is not a myth), and then we will probably need to lay down and stay overnight, which will allow dedicating our time to talk a bit about our research with the local community and explain/show some of the interesting results already obtained in this project. After returning to Manicore, we intend to start our journey down the Madeira River and do as much as possible for up to, approximately 18-20 days.

Will try to keep posting updates (and some pics) about this exciting initiative even knowing that Internet access will be intermittent. Anyway, keep an eye on this WormBlog or on the TPInet.org page for some insights and feel free to interact.

You can follow us in real time by assessing the link (starting tomorrow):

Find Us on The Map


Some personal notes: This will be my first time on this type of expedition, where transport is mainly done by boat, and most of the planning happens in the field. For an organization maniac as myself, this will prove my mind and patience. Personally, I hope to foster new perspectives on the “ribeirinho” (riverine people) way of living, which hopefully will allow me to delineate my research questions to better understand the current enigmatic human-environment dimension in Amazonia.

Recommended literature:

Nicholas C. Kawa. “Amazonia in the Anthropocene: People, Soils, Plants, Forests”.

Note: Will try to have some time to post a short review about this interesting book. I found it to be a good reading and to get a better idea of the social landscape in Madeira River with some interesting subjects discussed by the author. You can find the book on Amazon, and there is also a Kindle version.


(writing while on a very turbulent flight between Belem and Manaus)

By the way, since you are here, have a look at our parallel project, which is about the genome sequencing approach on the same earthworm species mentioned above. This is a fascinating little animal, with an amazing adaptability capacity, which allows him to live in a…., well, not mentioning more, have a look on the project web page.


This project was also a very challenging initiative as it was mainly funded through a successful crowdfunding campaign.



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