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Research has been a significant aspect of the work at Rum. Much of the research has contributed to national and international networks with other studies helping develop geological or ecological theories and understanding, or contributing directly to wildlife management.

The following provides an introduction to research relating to manx shearwaters and red deer on the island

Manx shearwater

The importance and novelty of the Manx shearwater colony at Rum has prompted a number of academic studies over the years as well as, more or less, continuous surveillance by Reserve staff and others. Much effort is being put into finding better ways of counting the birds including using recordings to stimulate birds in burrows to call, and so reveal themselves.

Recent years have seen reports of declining numbers of fledging birds and, since 2004, damage to eggs by rats has been reported each year. In response to this, we started a study in 2006 to monitor annual breeding success and productivity, and to investigate factors that may affect the breeding success of the colony such as food availability, nest site quality and predation. Rats are actively controlled on low ground and expansion of this work into the Manx shearwater area is planned.

Red deer

Red deer have been studied on Rum intensively and, over the decades, the research has become world-renowned. In the early years, up until 1972, studies were led by scientists from the Nature Conservancy. They looked at how the deer population changed; for instance the balance between sexes and age groups, and its effect on the plant communities of the Reserve. From 1972 the University of Cambridge started their study on deer behaviour and physiology associated with breeding. They also marked and identified individual deer in the Kilmory study area (Block 4) so that they could learn how breeding success varied on Rum.

More recently the University of Edinburgh and other universities and research institutes have joined the deer research project on the Reserve. The work has continued to investigate details of red deer behaviour and ecology with some fascinating findings including:

  • As hind numbers in a particular area rose, the number of resident males fell. This is because as the density increases there is a reduction in the proportion of male calves being born; more male calves die in their first winter; and there is an increase in male emigration and a reduction in male immigration.
  • These density related sex differences have implications for broader deer management, demonstrating that management to promote high hind numbers is likely to lead to reductions in the number and quality of resident stags.
  • Environmental conditions, such as climatic conditions, experienced by individuals in early life have been found to have long-term consequences for reproductive success.

Genetic samples have also been collected from most of the deer born in the study area over the last 25 years. Current projects include looking at the effects of climate change on when the deer breed. More than 100 research papers and three books have been published, and the research on Rum has been widely used in managing red deer throughout Europe. The project has its own base on the Reserve at Kilmory.

Last updated on Monday 21st October 2013 at 16:08 PM. Click here to comment on this page