An interview with our CPE students Nikolai Orgland.
1) Could you please introduce yourself?
My name’s Nikolai and I am a Norwegian/Swiss student here at Lexis in Noosa. I’m a double citizen, but I have lived in Switzerland for most of my life. Before I arrived here in Noosa I travelled through Singapore and the Australian East Coast as a backpacker, which was an astonishing experience.
2) I’ve heard that you won a prize in science. What was it about?
I was lucky to win a special prize for my high school thesis allowing me to present my project at the so called ‘Genius-Science-Olympiad’ in New York. This is an international project competition for young scientists within environmental research. The prize was provided by the foundation ‘Swiss Youth in Science’ for my thesis on how to prevent the endangered Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus from extinction in Switzerland.
3) How did you come to your leading question?
Since the 80s the breeding population of the Black headed Gull in Switzerland has collapsed: We have experienced a decline of more than 75% and the species is now listed as endangered on the Swiss red list. Several research institutes have conducted a lot of research trying to explain this decline, but unfortunately they didn’t find any logical causes. When doing an internship at the Swiss Ornithological Institute this unsolved mystery caught my interest. In my thesis I took a closer look on a big colony (1’000 breeding pairs) of the Black-headed Gull near the Swiss border which had not been investigated before.
4) What are the results of your survey?
One of the main results was the explanation of the historical decline. Even at the zenith of the breeding population there were only very few young Gulls who successfully grew up. When I calculated the necessary breeding success on the basis of survival rates I discovered a surprising fact: The growth and decline of the Swiss population didn’t correlate with the breeding success! The conclusion of this had to be that the Swiss population has always been depending on the immigration of birds from neighbouring countries in order to survive. Moreover, I was able to show how the reclamation of wetlands has forced this species to breed on artificial areas, where there are many new threats which would not exist in a natural environment.
5) Would you like to do further research on this topic?
I would love to do further research on this species but I decided that there are other areas in science which might be able to have a bigger impact on our environment. In order to contribute the most possible I now study electrical engineering at the EPF in Lausanne, Switzerland. My dream is to create a solar cell so cheap and efficient, that it would even beat the dirty coal electricity in prize.