Scotland's Sea Birds, Climate Change and Extreme Events

Date: Tuesday 20 February 2018

Time: 18:00 - 08:00


University of Edinburgh
Drummond Street
United Kingdom


SPEAKER | Prof. Sarah Wanless FRSE, formerly CEH Edinburgh.

ABSTRACT | Coastal seas make up less than 10% of the global ocean area but they generate nearly a quarter of marine primary production. The UK, particularly Scotland, is renowned for its varied coastal scenery and seabirds and their spectacular breeding colonies are an integral part of this. For much of the twentieth century conditions for UK seabirds were favourable and numbers of most species increased. However, over the last 20 years things have changed and now seabirds are frequently associated with words such as ‘disaster’, ‘collapse’, even ‘extinction’. In this lecture I will review our current understanding of the drivers of seabird population dynamics, in particular the evidence that seabirds are being affected by climate change both in terms of ‘average’ climate and extreme events such as severe winter storms. To do this I will draw heavily on long-term observational data collected on puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes and shags breeding at the colony on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth and new techniques using miniaturised loggers that are enabling us to track birds when they are away at sea feeding.

BIOGRAPHY | Sarah Wanless is an animal ecologist who throughout her life has been fascinated by the role of seabirds in marine ecosystems. Her graduate and postgraduate degrees were from the University of Aberdeen. For most of her research career she was based at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH, formerly the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology) initially at Banchory and since 2007 at Edinburgh. She was the British Antarctic Survey’s first female visiting scientist, spending two field seasons on Bird Island, South Georgia. However, most of her work has been carried out closer to home at CEH’s long term study site on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth. She pioneered the use of bird-borne loggers to identify important foraging areas for North Sea seabirds and over the last thirty years results of her work have highlighted the intensifying threats to these species from climate change and other human activities. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2006, awarded Honorary professorships from the universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen and Lifetime Achievement awards from both the UK Seabird Group and the Pacific Seabird Group. She retired in 2017 but remains closely involved with the Isle of May studies as a CEH research fellow.

The meeting will be held in the Institute of Geography, University of Edinburgh, Drummond Street, EH8 9XP, starting at 6 pm, with tea and biscuits available from 5:30 pm.  The talk will be preceded by a brief AGM. Please note that there is no entry to the building after 6 pm. 

This meeting is part of the Royal Meteorological Society Meetings programme, open to all, from expert to enthusiast, for topical discussions on the latest advances in weather and climate. Free to attend. Non members are welcome.

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