Scottish Puffins, lovingly called the “clowns of the sea” are a popular bird to snap for tourists and locals alike who happen to spot the birds when they migrate back to Scotland’s shores for the summer months. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)— which was founded by society ladies in 1889 to raise awareness about the decimation of rare and precious bird species being killed to become fashionable hat plumage— asks citizen scientists to join the Puffin Project by becoming a part of the “Puffarazzi”. Citizen scientists who have taken a picture at any of the approximately 40 puffin colonies in Scotland are asked to submit their pictures of puffins with fish in their bills taken in past years so that researchers can understand which colonies are experiencing food stress. The puffin population in Scotland is dropping quickly, and part of the blame goes to climate change’s negative impact on local small fish species that Puffins depend on to feed their young. Submitted pictures allow a clearer picture of trends in food supplies in puffin colonies. Because of COVID, the project is encouraging past photos to be submitted, as opposed to current photos to comply with social distancing guidelines in the UK, but the aim is still the same. Connie Tremlett, RSPB Conservation Scientist and manager, said that in 2020— despite COVID— they have received hundreds of submissions, showing the momentum of the project and the Puffin’s popularity. A possible issue with the project is that the public is still encouraged to actively engage with puffins in their conserved habitat. A deluge of tourists and photographs can certainly be a disruption to the puffins and damage their natural habitat. The project needs to ensure that in the process of engaging the public to help monitor, they do not end up harming the puffins. 

RSPB. “Our History.”


Biodiversity, Citizen Science, Ecological Monitoring, Visual Technologies