Professor Tim Birkhead has been gathering data for over 40 years on the guillemot colony of Skomer island. His research has hugely changed our understanding of seabird behaviour and his findings have been published in many prestigious journals. Tim’s passion for communicating his research has prompted him to explore new avenues to raise awareness about guillemots and other seabirds.
Local artist Chris Wallbank was approached by Tim to employ his creativity for a new project that combines the disciplines of science and art. Chris was invited to the island to capture the behaviour of the guillemot colony and painstakingly spent many weeks working on large scale illustrations. Chris’s intention was to illustrate both the behaviour of the colony as a whole and the birds as individuals. Chris worked on large format scrolls in often treacherous conditions but returned with several beautiful pieces.
The illustrations were exhibited in Sheffield Cathedral as part of ‘Festival of the Mind’ with individual pieces reaching upwards of 10ft. Visitors, often intrigued by the installations, were given an opportunity to see the science behind the art as Professor Tim Birkhead presented ‘The Loomery Scrolls’; a talk on the guillemot population of Skomer, presented at Sheffield Cathedral. Tim’s lecture received a large audience as he spoke of his research on the island since 1972. The talk shared with public audiences an intimate look at the science, of how our understanding of the guillemot colony has changed and how the population has been affected.
The data and outlook was shown as increasingly bleak, given the impacts of climate change altering guillemot food sources, worsening weather conditions and constant damage of recurrent oil spills. Professor Birkhead left the audience with a final haunting message of the potential fate of guillemots, with the words – ‘The End?’.
Given the decision this year to cut research funding for Skomer Island, never has it been more important to gain attention to the issues that threaten seabird populations. As strong advocate of being creative in communicating science for public awareness, this collaboration with Chris Wallbank is one of many ideas set to come from Professor Tim Birkhead.
To see more of Chris’s work or find out more about Skomer, please follow the links below.