Guillemot survey has provided wealth of data on climate – but funding could be cut
The Observer, Sunday 26 October 2014
Tim Birkhead has been monitoring guillemots for 42 years – with intriguing results. His surveys, carried out on Skomer island in Wales, have provided key information about the wellbeing of the sea birds’ population around the British Isles and has also produced important insights into the health of our seas.
However, the zoologist’s four-decade-long project is now threatened with closure. The newly formed quango Natural Resources Wales has said it will not continue to fund the £12,000-a-year survey, as part of a cost-cutting exercise. Unless cash can be raised as a matter of urgency, this year’s survey will be the last.
The news has dismayed the 64-year-old professor of zoology at Sheffield University. “This is an incredibly short-sighted decision,” Birkhead said. “We have built an extremely important database of guillemot population parameters and breeding rates, which tells a great deal about variations in numbers of these birds, about the health of their populations and about the health of our seas in general. But that entire database is now under threat merely to save a modest amount of money.”