Earlier in March, self-proclaimed bird-nerd and all-round awesomely enthusiastic researcher Rachel Buxton shared her stories with us on the show. A PhD candidate with the Department of Zoology, Rachel studies how seabird populations recover following the removal of introduced predators from island habitats.
Since the seabirds are nocturnal and nest in underground burrows, researchers have had to come up with some pretty creative ways of measuring the population numbers. By looking at many different islands which have had predators removed at different time periods, she is able to see whether or not seabird population numbers are recovering and at what rate the numbers are building.
In her PhD project, Rachel uses a technique called ‘burrow scoping’, which is simply “attaching an infrared camera to the end of a snakey thing and checking out what’s down there”. And in order to use this technique, she gets to travel to islands uninhabited by humans and camp out for months at a time in some of the most beautiful places on earth with a friendly field assistant for cheerful company. Pretty sweet deal, huh?
Just as cool was Rachel’s Masters research in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. In this project she was investigating relative numbers of seabirds on an island by estimating the numbers of calls heard on an audio recording. If you’d like to know how they get those recordings, just imagine this: It’s the middle of the night on an deserted island and two lone researchers step out of their tents to brave the elements. Walking out into the wilderness with only shaky headlights to guide them, they find a good spot and lift their audio recorders to the skies as six million seabirds swoop and swirl around them in the inky darkness… Okay, so…not so much. Really that’s just my imagination going a little overboard. Turns out the recordings are actually automated. But the whole island/uninhabited/middle of the night/six million seabirds thing is totally on the level. Did I mention yet that this is awesome?!
Have a listen to the interview by clicking here.
Or listen to the full show here.
Thanks again to Rachel for sharing her stories with us, and thanks to all of our lovely listeners for tuning in. If you have any questions, hit us up here on the blog or send an email to email@example.com