Snail sleuth wins BBC amateur scientist contest

BBC's amateur scientist of the year, Ruth Brooks, and her test subjects. Photo: BBC
Amateur scientist of the year, Ruth Brooks, and her test subjects. Photo: BBC

Ruth Brooks, a gardener with a soft spot for snails, has just won the BBC’s “So You Want to Be a Scientist?” contest. You may recall that she was our favorite when we reported in April on the four finalists for the contest.

Brooks’s ground-breaking (if slow) project showed that, contrary to what many scientists thought but gardeners suspected, snails have a homing instinct. The clever mollusks, she found, will return to their home gardens even if they’ve been relocated 100 feet away.

Brooks was helped in her research by Dave Hodgson, an ecologist at Exeter University, who described the experimental plan in this video:

Brooks has not yet determined the maximum limits of snails’ homing range, but, according to the BBC, she had this to offer gardeners who can’t bear to murder the creatures:

“I would say that on the evidence that it would be safe to take your snails away beyond 100m [330 feet] or further and put them somewhere nice with some food and you can be almost certain that they won’t come back.” She added: “I shall certainly be following that advice.”

You can follow Brooks’s continuing experiments on Facebook. And let us know–do her adventures spark any science project ideas for you? Add your comments here.

Categories: Animals, Biology, Citizen Science, Contest, In the News, Nature & Outdoors