North Berwick is a town situated on the East coast of Scotland on the Firth of Forth, 25 miles from the country’s capital of Edinburgh. It is, at certain times of year, battered by the North Sea and has an average annual temperature of just 9°C. So how can North Berwick be linked to the volcanic and equatorial Galapagos Islands?
The answer lies in what can be found in abundance in both locations…seabirds! A few miles from the coast of North Berwick can be found the Bass Rock, one of the Firth of Forth islands and home to the largest single island gannet colony in the world with over 150,000 individuals jostling for space during the breeding season. In addition to gannets, puffins, guillemots, razorbills, shags, fulmars and kittiwakes can all be seen in the area, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists and birders every year.
The Scottish Seabird Centre opened in North Berwick after a decade of hard work and determination by a team of local supporters. Today they are world leaders in remote wildlife viewing, having installed 14 remote cameras on a range of islands in the area which stream live footage to the Centre and which can be controlled by the visitors. The Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) is currently leading a project in collaboration with the Seabird Centre and the Galapagos National Park to bring this innovative technology to Galapagos.
The benefit of remote viewing is multi-faceted but the most prominent advantage concerns human impact. The Scottish Seabird Centre receives over 250,000 visitors a year. If this many people where to take a trip out to land on the Bass Rock, the impact on the gannet colony would be extensive and potentially devastating. The use of remote viewing technology allows visitors to closely observe the seabirds and other sea creatures in their natural habitat without this disturbance. Another benefit is that cameras can be installed in remote and hard to access locations, giving visitors the opportunity to view, through live-feed footage, wildlife in parts of the islands that would otherwise be inaccessible. Finally, it can aid in the conservation of species by providing researchers with an unparalleled insight into life in the colony and allowing scientists to conduct behavioural studies without disturbing them.
This week, GCT is excited to be hosting Roberto Maldonado for the next step in the project. Roberto is responsible for Communication, Education and Participation at the Galapagos National Park, and has previously worked for the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism. He will be joining GCT’s CEO Ian Dunn, the Seabird Centre’s CEO Tom Brock and Peter Barlow from Outersight (a company specialising in wildlife observation systems) in North Berwick to gain insight into the running of the Seabird Centre and the logistics that such a project involves.
See here for an article from the BBC on this project. Further updates on the project will be made available on our website. An article on an earlier stage of the project by GCT’s Project Manager Jen Jones will feature in the Autumn/Winter edition of Galapagos Matters, available to GCT members. Not a member? Sign up for just £3 a month…see our membership page for more information.
by Pete Haskell