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Land Snails and Millipedes Transect

Triodopsis snail, side view (NPS photo)


The Blue Ridge Parkway’s Natural Resources and Science Division is looking for dedicated individuals to participate in our 2017 spring (April-May) Citizen Science Program to conduct field surveys of land snails and slugs on and off trails along the Parkway. Currently a total of 50 locations along the Parkway have been selected for surveying and volunteers may sign up for one or multiple locations over the course of the project, according to your own schedule and availability.

The Parkway plans to have a kick off training event in Asheville, North Carolina, on April 8, 2017. Training will last from 9am until 3pm and volunteers will receive instruction from malacologist and Parkway staff on how to identify habitat and collect specimens. A second training event is being planned for Peaks of Otter, Virginia, on May 6, 2017.

Volunteers will be expected to provide their own mode of transportation to training events and collection sites, rain gear, hiking boots, water, food, daypack for day trips, and any other personal items as needed. Other field survey equipment will be provided but volunteers may use their own gear if desired.


Land snails are an easily overlooked and understudied part of the ecology in the southern and central Appalachians. Of the more than 1,000 species known to occur in North America, 25 have been identified on the Parkway, but another 125 are likely to be found here, some of which may be rare or even endemic.

Land snails, semi-slugs, and slugs contribute significantly to decomposition and nitrification of soils through their decaying bodies and feces. Their dead shells are a principal source of calcium. Land snails recycle forest nutrients and are prey for a number of vertebrate (amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) and invertebrate (insects, carnivorous snails) species. Carnivorous snails feed on earthworms, insect larvae, and other snails. Some species consume dead and rotting organic materials while others eat live plants, especially seedlings and tender plants. Though poorly understood, some snails prefer to eat fungi and may be an important factor in dispersal of fungal spores.

Land snails are important environmental indicators and biodiversity predictors. Because of their close association with water, mollusks are good indicators of the health of the environment and may play an important role in monitoring climate change. Despite fabulous adaptations to land, snails are among the most sensitive animals to pollutants, including road runoff and acidic rainfall. Land snail populations have dwindled in recent decades, in turn contributing to the decline of some species of birds that feed on them and depend on them as sources of calcium for creating egg shells.

To participate in this study:

  1. Subscribe/register with Hands on the Land.
  2. Check website for updated information.
  3. Attend one of the training events or watch the training video (coming by end of March).
  4. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to express interest in attending training events.  Directions will be provided.  April 8, 2017, Asheville, North Carolina  or  May 6, 2017, Peaks of Otter, Virginia
  5. When you have logged into Hands on the Land, select the surveying site locations that are listed as "Available."
  6. Click on your chosen Available site and select "edit", scroll to the bottom of the page and change the status to "Occupied".
  7. When you complete the collection at a site, log into Hands on the Land again and edit the site to status "Done".
  8. Contact Paul about how to drop off the samples.

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