Tim Birkhead writes:
Adam Nicolson has just been awarded the Wainwright Prize — a fabulous accolade, for a fabulous book. It was his potent mix of passion plus the results of scientific research made us decide to invite Adam to our forthcoming New Networks for Nature meeting. He and I will be in conversation about his book, the conservation of seabirds and other aspects of his interesting life.
Guillemots, gannets, puffins, petrels, skuas and shags have all evolved to forage in one of the most demanding of habitats — the oceans. They all feed at sea, but they all have to breed on land and they often do so together in huge numbers. Thriving seabird colonies provide some of our greatest wildlife spectacles.
I recently took one hundred first year biology students to Bempton Cliffs seabird reserve. We walked along the cliff tops in brilliant sunshine and afterwards took the Yorkshire Belle out of Bridlington to cruise gently beneath those towering 400’ cliffs, all of us — myself included — utterly awed by the sheer mass, cacophony and odour of the seabirds.
Bempton is wonderful, but Skomer Island, Wales is where my heart lies. Since 1972 I have visited Skomer each year, to study its guillemots, and more recently to try to safeguard the quality of the monitoring that’s done there — despite the bureaucratic indifference of government bodies that ought to care.
Monitoring seabirds is our health check on the marine environment. Monitoring is essential for in most parts of the world seabird numbers are in free fall, as Adam Nicolson has so powerfully described in his wonderful book.
At New Networks for Nature we will also have a separate session covering: (i) some of the research involved in seabird conservation (Euan Dunn, RSPB); (ii) the extraordinary effect of providing disabled access to the Bempton cliffs (Keith Clarkson, ex-Bempton manager), and (iii) the way the long-term study of guillemots on Skomer inspired an artist to create some extremely powerful imagery (Chris Wallbank).
Come and meet them! They’ll inspire you too.
Professor of Evolution and Behaviour, University of Sheffield, UK
Co-organiser of Creating Connections, New Networks 2018