Guillemot Research Saved by Crowdfunding Campaign

Tim BirkheadProfessor Tim Birkhead of The University of Sheffield’s Animal and Plant Sciences Department has been carrying out a long-term study of guillemots on Skomer Island, Wales, since 1972. In the 1930's there were around 100,000 pairs of guillemots on Skomer’s cliffs, but by the early 1970's this had fallen to just 2,000 pairs. Since then numbers have increased and there are now around 25,000 pairs. The population on Skomer is one of just a handful of UK guillemot populations that is doing reasonably well at present.

However, in February this year there was a massive ‘seabird wreck’ which killed at least 40,000 seabirds, many of which were guillemots, and many of which were from Skomer. The wreck was the result of persistent storms – which in turn were the result of climate change – and which stop the birds from feeding so they starve to death. Our long term study meant that we were in a unique position to understand the consequences of this ‘wreck’.

Ironically, the ‘wreck’ coincided with the decision to terminate funding for the study, as recently reported by Nature and the Guardian.

The guillemot study started in 1972, and for the last 20 years was funded by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW). In 2013 CCW became part of Natural Resources Wales, and since then the funding for the guillemot study stopped.

As the quality of our seas continue to decline as a result of climate change and over-fishing, it seems crazy to terminate a study that could help preserve one of our most important seabird species. This project needs £12,000 a year to continue. With your help we can carry on collecting the information that is so essential for understanding the health of this sea bird population, the state of the marine environment, and for recognising the effects of climate change and oil pollution on seabird populations in general

The target is £12,000 for one year's research. Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of individuals, including many alumni of the department and its precursor, the Zoology Department, this target has been reached and even surpassed.

However, the more money raised the more secure the future of the study will be. Professor Birkhead’s Just Giving page can be found here, along with a video explaining more about his important work.

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