For billions of years, nights—especially moonless nights—were dark. However in the last 150 years human urbanisation has transformed our nocturnal landscape, so that now more than one third of the human population is no longer able to see the Milky Way. Light pollution is expanding every year by around 6%, affecting more organisms, including plants, fungi, bacteria and animals. Artificial light can interrupt vegetative growth of plants, disturb communication between fireflies, misdirect movement of turtles or result in birds’ choir starting earlier.
Some seabirds are also affected by light pollution. These birds land on the ground in lit-up areas. Due to their anatomy, specially adapted for life at sea, they are generally unable to take off again. On the ground, they can be hit by a car or be depredated by cats or dogs. Luckily hundred of volunteers and communities world-wide organise rescue campaigns, searching for grounded birds in order to release them back to sea. Many seabirds are saved this way, but for some help comes too late, or they are never found.
There are ways to improve our outdoor lights, so that they work optimally for humans, and ensure minimal disturbance, not only to seabirds, but also other animals.
Martyna Syposz is a Polish zoology scientist. She concluded a PhD at Oxford University where she explored the effects of light pollution on migrating seabirds.
Martyna is passionate about nature and wildlife conservation. She loves sharing her knowledge with researchers and the public on conferences, outreach events, in class or by writing about environmental issues.
Her most recent volunteering position was in the Aldabra Clean-Up Project. The project’s main goal was to clean up a remote UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Aldabra Atoll in Seychelles. Once the group removed 25 tonnes of marine debris from turtle nesting beaches, they got involved in repurposing the rubbish and raising awareness about the plastic pollution.
Martyna is always keen to go climbing, running, cycling or doing yoga.