Seabird appeal reaches £100,000 target to help monitor the impact of climate change 

A 45-year study of the seabirds of Skomer is set to continue for another 10 years, thanks to the support of hundreds of donors.

The study, run by Professor Tim Birkhead from the University of Sheffield, tracks the population of the guillemots that breed on the island of Skomer, just off the coast of South Wales.

One of the longest investigations of its kind, the study is acting as a measure for the impact climate change and other environmental factors are having on Skomer’s guillemot population.

To mark his retirement from the University, Professor Birkhead set out to raise £100,000 to ensure the continuation of the study – a target he has now reached.

Professor Birkhead, from the University’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, said: “I am absolutely delighted that this vital and unique study will be able to continue and I could not be more grateful to the hundreds of individuals who have made donations to allow it to carry on.”

Over 330 donations were made to Professor Birkhead’s appeal for support, from donors across the globe, including gifts from former students, colleagues and collaborators.

One donor on JustGiving, said: “Outstanding work for 40 years, longitudinal studies are so important. I still remember Tim’s very interesting lectures from 1988!”

A large number of donations also came from attendees of the talks Professor Birkhead gives around the country. One donor commented through JustGiving: “Good luck, Tim I hope you get all the funding you need, and more, for your successor to continue where you have left off.”

Explaining the importance or research studies like his, Professor Birkhead said: “I have been working on this study for the majority of my career, monitoring the health of the guillemot population on the island of Skomer.

“However, the results of this study can be felt far more widely, both for conservation of other seabirds but also as a proxy for the health of the marine environment.”

Seabirds such as guillemots are particularly responsive to changes in the environment, meaning they act as a barometer for the overall health of the ocean.

Having such a long, uninterrupted study is of vital importance to environmental research as the data recorded shows how guillemots have responded to the changes in their environment.

This information can also be used to infer how guillemots and other marine environments might respond to future changes posed by global warming and other forms of climate change.

Professor Birkhead, added: “I am truly, truly thankful to each and every person who has made a donation to support this work.

“Knowing that this research will continue in safe hands is the best retirement gift I could have hoped for - though it’s safe to say this won't be the last the guillemots see of me.”

Professor Birkhead joined the University in 1976 and has since taught and supervised thousands of students. Many of these students had the opportunity to take part in Tim’s guillemot study, gaining practical experience as part of their course - something he thought was vital to being a great researcher - and it is one of Tim’s former post-docs who will be taking over the study.

Throughout his career Professor Birkhead has been an innovative and award winning teacher, receiving the National Teaching Fellowship for outstanding impact on students’ learning experience in 2017.

Miles Stevenson, the University of Sheffield’s Director of Advancement, said: “Professor Birkhead has been a dedicated member of the University for decades, and has impacted the lives of countless students.

“It has been a great pleasure to work with Tim for a number of years, and to help him support his work into this important environmental cause. I am delighted he has reached his target, and wish him a very happy retirement.”

To find out more about Professor Birkhead’s fundraising appeal, and to help the study continue for even longer, please visit the JustGiving appeal.

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Professor Tim Birkhead

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