Rockabill Summer

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Tern sunsets are the best! ©Heidi Acampora, under NPWS licence.

Last summer I was a seabird warden at Rockabill island, off the coast of Dublin. I had been to Rockabill previously sampling during my PhD and postdoc and it is a magical little island (the size of a football pitch!), home to over 7,000 seabirds! It is also the most important Roseate tern colony in Europe! But not only Roseate terns live there, we also have Common and Arctic terns, Kittiwakes and Black Guillemots nesting on the island. In addition, Puffins, Common Guillemots and Razorbills are regular visitors to my delight!

It is as incredible as it sounds, but with a little catch: we have no power or running water. Well, almost none. We have a generator that we turn on for about two hours a day, enough to charge our laptops and phones and give a bit of a cool breeze into our small fridge! And we have tanks that were filled with rain water during the winter, but since hello climate change and we didn’t have a wet winter and a had like a tropical summer (but with no storms), we were pretty low on freshwater quickly and seawater was used a lot (please, don’t ask how often we showered! Haha!). We, yes, we were three wardens on this island. Our boss and sometimes visitors come to us and supply us with fresh food, drinking water and petrol for our generator. No random visitors, let me be clear. It is strictly not allowed to land on Rockabill as it is private property and we are trying to protect ground nesting birds.

Speaking of birds, as we all know, they are amazing! And I’m not biased! 😉 We laid out nest boxes for the Roseate terns and Black Guillemots, but Common terns nest on the ground (everywhere!), so do Arctics, and Kittiwakes nest on the cliffy areas of the island. The first Roseate and Common tern eggs were laid at the end of May. On average, incubation takes about 22 days, then quickly tiny chicks become big chicks and fledglings! They grow so fast! For a period of three weeks, things went crazy with all the chicks hatching and we had to measure and weigh them every day, and ring them when they were big enough for a ring (on average 4 days old). This was for our study area birds (each one of us was responsible for a few study areas). In the space of a week we had the ringing sweep and we had to ring all chicks on the island! In total, we ringed over 4,300 birds between Common, Roseates and Arctic terns, Black guillemots and later, Kittiwakes. We had help for 2 days from two previous wardens: Brian Burke and Shane Somers and our boss, Steve Newton. And then we were left to our own to finish the job, which was successfully completed on the following Sunday (who needs a weekend?!).

Then it was back to biometrics and feeding watches. The great majority of the chicks were soon after in fledging plumage and taking low flights, sometimes even to sea (again, they grow up so fast!). It was amazing to watch and monitor all the process and I love all the birds… but again, everybody knows that! 🙂 I’ll leave you with some photos about #lifeontherock (as I like to call it!)and if you feel so inclined, follow my Instagram profie @heidiacampora , where I continue to post photos and videos of my bird and wildlife adventures, along with others 🙂

For more information on Rockabill, check out the Rockablog, which was updated in real time!

Until next time,

Heidi Acampora

* All photos were taken under National Parks & Wildlife Services (NPWS) licence.

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A view of Rockabill colony from one of our hides. ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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From left to right: warden Luíse Ní Dhonnabháin, our boss Steve Newton, me and warden David Miley. ©MarkRobbins under NPWS licence.

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We had several seals on the outskirts of the island at the beginning and end of the season, mostly grey seals, like this one, but a few common/harbour seals too. Personally, I am a fan 😉 ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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That busy hour! Dinner time for these Roseates, looking to feed their offspring! ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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A different Rockabill angle! Thanks to the good weather, I had the chance to go for a few dips and make the infrequent shower situation more bearable! 😀 ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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A gorgeous looking Roseate chick venturing out! ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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A Common tern chick is protected by its parent. ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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A Black Guillemot brings back a butterfish to feed its chick. ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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A pair of Arctic terns and its chick. ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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A rather romantic looking photo of a Common tern. ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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Ringing Kittiwake chicks on the cliffs of Rockabill. ©SteveNewton under NPWS licence.

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A Roseate tern searches the colony for its nest box to feed its chick. ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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Kittiwake parent and its chick in Rockabill, at a place we like to call “Kitti-city”. ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

 

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Roseate tern looking amazing! 🙂 ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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An Arctic tern. ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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Stormy skies over colony. Nest boxes and one of our hides can be seen here. ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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Yours truly ringing a Black Guillemot chick. ©LuíseNíDhonnabháin under NPWS licence.

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Ringing sweep! ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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Kittiwakes in flight. ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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When the supply boat and visitors leave. ©AndrewPower under NPWS licence.

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Puffins on my trail camera. ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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Yours truly living life in one of the Common tern gardens. ©LuíseNíDhonnabháin under NPWS licence.

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It’s time for family biometrics! Common tern chicks wait inside my weather writer to be weighed and have their wings measured. ©HeidiAcampora under NPWS licence.

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Ringing a Common tern chick. ©DavidMiley under NPWS licence.

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#LifeOnTheRock 🙂

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Persistent Organic Pollutants in European Storm Petrels – New paper out

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Hi everyone,

Last June I finally got my last PhD paper published! This work was the result of late night sampling of European Storm Petrel’s (Hydrobates pelagicus) feathers and preen oil, which I loved to do. These are amazing, incredibly resilient seabirds (not to mention beautiful!). We investigated these two different methodologies and I think we got a pretty neat paper out 🙂

If you are interested in having a look, you can find the paper here.

If you don’t have access to it, please send me a request on Research Gate and it’ll be my pleasure to email it to you!

Thanks for reading!

Heidi Acampora

Brazil – Ireland Research Event

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Last April I had the chance to attend the “Brazil Ireland Research Event” in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As many of you know, I am Brazilian, but at this event, I was representing the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), Ireland. The main goal of this event was to start a conversation about opportunities for joint Brazilian and Irish research and to strengthen existing research connections. The event was mainly attended by researchers and representatives of higher education institutions that would like to either have Brazilian students/researchers at their Irish institutions or to send Irish students/researchers to Brazilian institutions. As a representative of GMIT, I was interested in making connections within our main areas of expertise in postgraduate research (Marine & Freshwater and Biomedical sciences ) and undergraduate courses (For a list of courses, please click here).

The event took place for two days and it opened very interesting conversations and initial connections. Hopefully more events like this (and hopefully longer events) will take place in the future and the relationship between both countries will be more fruitful in terms of research.

If you are a Brazilian researcher or student, interested in one of the areas mentioned above, please contact me for further information on potential collaboration in regards to PhD or MSc.

 

For more information on the event, please, click here.

 

For more information about GMIT, click here.

 

For more information on the Marine and Freshwater Research Centre, at GMIT, click here and here.

 

 

Thanks for reading,

Heidi Acampora

The 6th International Marine Debris Conference

I had the privilege to attend and speak at the 6th International Marine Debris Conference, which took place in San Diego, California, from the 12th to the 16th of March 2018. The conference gathered more than 700 delegates from 54 different countries, all with the goal of sharing their research and advances about impacts, and preventing and mitigating plastic pollution around the globe. From researchers to stakeholder to activists, we had a little of everything and one thing was obvious: even though there is a lot we do not know yet about the impacts of plastics caused at various levels, we have enough knowledge to act. It is time to act now.

In the last few weeks we have seen a lot of media coverage on the topic of plastic pollution and even though most of it is resulting of really bad impacts being seen at the moment, they are making the general public very aware that something needs to change and it has to be now. Governmental proposals of banning single use plastics are finally happening and I am very hopeful that more mitigation measures and potential solutions will be brought forward and hopefully we can turn the tide on plastic pollution.

I got to speak about the about “The use of beached bird surveys for marine litter monitoring in Ireland” and had a really good feedback and interesting conversations with other researchers wanting or already implementing the same in their own countries.

The conference had a zero waste initiative and we all had our reusable cups and lunch bags from registration. Food was also donated to local shelter. At the end of the conference we had the very nice surprise to have Jack Johnson to talk about how he has reduced and advocated for no plastic waste at his concerts and we also got treated to a couple of songs! In the following days, I also got to enjoy a little bit of beautiful San Diego.

If you wish to read more about the conference, please visit their website here.

Conference proceedings are available here.

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Presenting on the RIBBS project.

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GMIT’s representatives: PhD student Elena Pagter, Dr João Frias and Dr Heidi Acampora 🙂

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Jack Johnson treating us to a few songs. That was a great ending to a conference!

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Visiting La Jolla, I got to see nesting Brandt’s cormorants ❤

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Flying Brown pelicans under the California sunshine!

 

Until next time,

 

Heidi Acampora

SuperNatural Plastic Eaters

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The Science Gallery in Dublin will be holding an artistic event by Yvanna Greene, which examines plastic pollution from the point of view of scientists and approaches it through an artistic eye.

“Imagine plastic breaking down in the stomach of sea creatures, transforming into a plastic protein, that is used as fuel to enhance or recreate the skeletal frame. How far are we from a time when sea creatures can design and shape their future selves with a material that is non-degradable, has increased fracture toughness, is light weight, colourful and shiny?

SuperNatural Plastic Eaters is a talk involving marine scientists Karin Dubsky and Heidi Acampora and artist Yvanna Greene. The talk, chaired by Anne Mullee, examines plastic pollution in the marine environment, the ingestion of plastic by marine creatures and reveals fictitious evolutionary new marine species washed up on the coast of Ireland, in order to raise awareness about plastic pollution affecting wildlife globally”.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018 – 18:30 to 20:00. Free entry. More information in the link below.

https://dublin.sciencegallery.com/events/2018/02/supernaturalplasticeaters

‘The Witches Knickers Project’

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For those living in Ireland, I’d like to tell you about an artistic exhibition that will approach plastic pollution.

“In this exhibition, KAVA artists respond to the growing outrage at the environmental crisis precipitated by single use plastic. ‘Witches’ Knickers’ is Irish slang for plastic snagged on trees and bushes. The exhibition, a collaboration between Kinvara Area Visual Arts and The Russell Gallery, New Quay will mark the conclusion of an experimental workshop that KAVA undertook in early February and will showcase works produced during the course of the workshop.”

I’ve been approached by one of the artists, Cath Taylor, to provide some information on plastics affecting seabirds in Ireland and she has made some powerful pieces about that and it is definitely worth checking it if you’re in the area!

Launch: Saturday February 17th, 2018 at 5pm at The Russell Gallery
Continues until 3rd March

Mooney Goes Wild

 

On January 14th, “Mooney Goes Wild”, on RTÉ Radio 1, was all about plastic pollution affecting marine species globally. I got to speak about the ‘Republic of Ireland Beached Bird Surveys’ and how seabirds in Ireland are being affected by plastic pollution.

You can listen back to this episode here!

Thanks for all the usual support to this project!

Heidi Acampora

The Irish Times on Plastic Pollution

Me and my colleagues at the Marine and Freshwater Research Centre got the opportunity to talk to The Irish Times about plastic pollution in Ireland. We hope this video has contributed to raise awareness about plastic pollution and that people feel compelled to do their part either by reducing, reusing and recycling plastics or by helping with research by doing beached bird surveys or beach clean ups 🙂 To watch the video, click on the link below.

Ireland’s plastic pollution problem

Additionally, I also had the opportunity to talk to BBC One Northern Ireland’s Home Ground. This show is not available in all countries, but you can check availability in the link below.

BBC One – Home Ground, series 2 episode 2

That is all for now!

Thanks for reading and for helping with this research.

Heidi Acampora

PhD is over!

 

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Whoa, it’s been a minute! I feel bad this blog has been completely neglected during the last few months, but it was for a good cause! I did it! I finished the PhD! 🙂 The months leading up to it were very stressful trying to finish writing and publishing and preparing to defend it that I had no spare time whatsoever. But I am really happy with all that I have achieved, with the help of amazing volunteers and coworkers, I was able to provide baseline data for pollutants in many seabird species in Ireland and to me, that feels like making a difference. Now that things are slightly calmer, I intend to come back to updating this blog more often again.

For now, I leave you with the publications so far that have come out with results from the past 3 years’ work! After the last post with the first results from the beached bird surveys, we have come up with a few more things 🙂

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You can access it here

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You can access it here

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You can access it here

If you don’t have access and would like to read any of these, just let us know and I can send you a PDF.

That’s it for now. Happy reading!

Dr Heidi Acampora 🙂