Citizen Scientists Are the Key to Saving Scotland’s Puffins

A nonprofit in Scotland has just been awarded a grant to launch Project Puffin, an initiative to save the much-loved seabirds through research.
 

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The puffin population has been struggling worldwide, as global warming affects the birds’ food supply.
 
In Maine, local puffins’ usual diet of herring and hake is being replaced by animals like butterfish, which babies (called pufflings!) have a hard time eating.

 
pufflings, baby puffins
 

The European population is expected to decline by 50 to 79 percent by 2065, and since Europe currently has 90 percent of the world’s puffins, that’s a big deal.

 

Project Puffin, run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Scotland will encourage members of the public to work together with scientists to learn more about puffins’ diet and fishing patterns.

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While the trained researchers will fit GPS trackers to 31 puffins at two nesting sites in Scotland in order to figure out where they go on their hunts, “citizen scientists” are being asked to take photos of any puffins they happen to find carrying fish around in their mouths, so the researchers can use them to track changes in diet.

“Puffins are wonderful birds in desperate need of help to ensure the long-term survival of the species,” says Ellie Owen, who leads the RSPB’s seabird tracking work across the U.K.
 
puffins in Scotland
 
“Across the country, there is great affection for these birds, and this project will give people the chance to get involved with the work being done to save them.”

Scotland has 80 percent of the British and Irish puffin population, so Project Puffin could make a significant impact on the future of these birds. Save the pufflings!

 

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