When selecting my second-year field trip, studying Marine Biology at the University of Exeter, I had a plethora of
choices. Lots of people are seduced by far flung destinations, like Cyprus (yes, I know I am going there in a week, for four months) and the Swiss Alps just to name a few. UoE here in Cornwall packs a punch when it comes to our field trip opportunities, in January I am dashing off to the Galapagos (eeeeek! More Gapagawesome updates in store for 2019!), and other choices include the Azores, India and Yukon. I digress, the point I am trying to make is that we have a wealth of marine life right on our doorstep in the UK, and you don’t need a huge budget or serious jet lag to find some of the most charismatic marine vertebrates.
The #ExeterMarine cohort, including myself, have elected this year to come to Pembrokeshire, a Welsh haven – and we have not been disappointed.
Now, the people who know me well will know I have never been totally invigorated by seabirds. However, I have had an epiphany. I know of a certain academic who would’ve never saw this coming.
But now, I have to admit, I do quite like seabirds (shocker).
A little bit of context:
So, Ramsey Island was invaded by brown rats through agricultural activities. Rats are sneaky by nature, well known as stow-aways and general nuisances. Rats made it to Ramsey via boat (no, they cannot swim that far) and they are super effective invaders because of their life history and R-selected reproductive strategies (this means they have many offspring often, and don’t usually care for them that much). Seabirds nest on the ground, you can see where this going… Rats decimated the seabird populations on Ramsey and as a result biodiversity on the island is drastically changed, and puffins still haven’t returned to the island despite efforts to lure them back using nifty decoys.
In contrast, Skomer Island has miraculously avoided rat invasion. As a result, these gorgeous birds are all over the place. It’s easy to be captivated by Puffins, they’re the Blake Lively of the seabird world. But this week, I have shocked myself (and others) in becoming more and more captivated by your standard Guillemot.
I have never been a seabird fan, I have never known much about them, seen them so close up or heard passionate
talks about their ecology from seabird researchers overlooking a vast Guillemot colony. This is kinda what did it for me. Prior to this week, my encounters with seabirds have included having my pasty snatched out of my hands and being pooed on.
Turns out, the Guillemot (and all the others) are pretty cool. It clicked that, as a colony, seabirds are awesome – not to mention the crazy migrations they perform and their metabolic capabilities.
I feel like this week I have Terned a corner (pun intended) and I have become much more open minded.
I know this blog wasn’t turtle related, but it’s a notable moment in my marine biology journey, and I hope you enjoyed the read.
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*IMAGES ARE ALL MY OWN*