An Inspiring Talk About Seabird Ecology and the Antarctic

Last week students from years 5-10 and year 12 had the pleasure of meeting Ewan Wakefield. Dr Wakefield is a scientist who travels to the Antarctic to carry out his research. He gave a fascinating talk on seabird ecology and his Antarctic trip. A year 8 student explained that they “really enjoyed the talk, and it made me consider doing his job!”.

The students first learnt about different sea birds, that Dr Wakefield has studied extensively, looking at local species as well as migratory sea birds. “There was lots of interesting information about the Snow petrels, the Albatross was cool! The chips that tracked the birds were really interesting and the way the oil formed layers and stayed there for a very long time, as well as how long birds live for!” commented one of the year 10 students. Another learned “..penguins could dive to 500m!”. They were amazed that Albatross has a wingspan of 3.5m and of course really enjoyed seeng the pictures and video.

They found out about the differences between the Arctic and Antarctic. Quite a lot of the students had not realised how dry the Antarctic was or how the ice-sheets affect climate change. Some were surprised to learn that England and Antarctica are on the same time line.

Dr Wakefield went on to describe his journey to the Antarctic and the conditions that he worked in before explaining that his study of snow petrels is important research linked to climate change. Some of the students now wish to visit the Antarctic and learn more. “I learnt that Snow petrels spit grease to protect them from the bigger birds called Skua.” noted one of the year 8s. In fact many were impressed by the snow petrels ability to spit to attack and that they “spit fish oil on their one predator to defend themselves and when the spit builds up over time you can count layers-some can be 50000 years old!” Zara in year 5 “thought it was amazing how far seabirds travel around the world every year!”.

“He told us many interesting things and I am impressed by his job. The most interesting thing was how people can gain information about the last thousands of years from the birds.” explained one of Fyling Hall School’s international students.

The older year groups got to hear about career pathways that could take them to working in this field of study, or in the Antarctic itself. There were some lesser known career options that our year 10s certainly hadn’t considered in the past “I’m inspired to become an Antarctic vehicle driver.” and some more familiar ones. “Bet it would be cool to be an Antarctic doctor”.

Thank you Dr Wakefield! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the talk and learnt so much. They left inspired, with new knowledge and with plenty to talk about.

careers talk, science talk, outside speaker, curriculum enrichment
careers talk, science talk, outside speaker, curriculum enrichment
careers talk, science talk, outside speaker, curriculum enrichment

Some more feedback from our students;

“…he was so passionate about what he is doing.” Year 10 student

“I found the talk really interesting and I learnt a lot. I hope Dr Wakefield has a good time in Antarctica.” Frankie, year 5

“I liked that he was talking about the Puffins and the Snow petrel and what they eat and the bit about Antarctica.” year 8 student.

“I really enjoyed the talk and I found it fascinating how the birds can follow the wind when they migrate.” Lara, year 5

“It was interesting to find out about birds that produce oil and spit it at their enemies and how long it lasts.”  year 10

“I loved the way he told us about how he went to Antarctica.” year 8

“I found it really interesting that it is so cold in Antarctica that the snow won’t stick together for snowballs!” Betsy, year 5

“Listening to Dr Wakefield has made me want to go to Antarctica when I am older.” Arthur, year 5


careers talk, science talk, outside speaker, curriculum enrichment
careers talk, science talk, outside speaker, curriculum enrichment