"The analysis of puffins is able to tell us what's going on in the oceans," she said of the beloved species that has been dubbed the marine equivalent of canaries in coal mines.
"Puffins are so amazingly hardy and they live to be about 30 years of age.
"The oceans are the lungs of the planet. If the puffins start to have trouble, well, we're all in trouble."
House and her production team have spent a year working on the 60-minute documentary "Puffin Patrol" to air in the fall of 2015 on CBC-TV's "The Nature of Things."
It will trace feeding, breeding and travel habits from the nesting burrows of North America's largest colony in eastern Newfoundland to Skomer Island in Wales and Eastern Egg Rock off the coast of Maine.
And it will tell the story of how volunteers each summer in Witless Bay, N.L., save young pufflings that fly astray.
Known as the puffin patrol, the group started eight years ago after a former film executive from Berlin, Juergen Schau, mobilized local kids and their parents to help stop the number of baby birds killed by vehicles in the town. It's close to four islands where about 260,000 pairs of puffins mate each season.
Pufflings that leave their nests in August, flying out to sea guided by moonlight, can be confused by lights on land and inadvertently head for shore. It has been a growing issue in Witless Bay, about 30 minutes south of St. John's, as offshore oil wealth has spurred new construction.
Volunteers use small nets to capture the pufflings at night. They're safely crated and then released to the sea in daylight.
Leah Mahoney of the local Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society chapter said more than 800 pufflings were rescued this summer, a record since the patrol began.
In Newfoundland, the stocky birds known for their multi-hued beaks are thriving.
It's not the case elsewhere. An article in Environmental Health News published last month in conjunction with National Geographic documents the decline of seabirds on islands off Iceland's south and west coasts. They are home to some of the world's prime birthing grounds for several species including puffins.
The article quotes the South Iceland Nature Centre which says breeding in the famed puffin colonies there has been a "total failure" since 2005. Field researchers suspect various causes.
They include how climate change and warming waters may disrupt delicate breeding schedules, along with the effects of glacier melts and ocean pollution.
Bill Montevecchi, a seabird specialist at Memorial University of Newfoundland, said some of the colonies he monitors on the island are showing signs of profound environmental shifts.
"It's staring us in the face," he said. "The birds are the secondary responders so they're just giving us information about the cold-blooded fish and the fish food, the plankton.
"If the fish are too deep or they move to the North and (seabirds) can't get there and get food for their young, the young die."
While Newfoundland's caplin-feeding puffin population seems robust, Northern gannets that dive for young cod, haddock and other fish abandoned their nests in droves this summer at Cape St. Mary's, Montevecchi said.
He described it as the second "extreme event" for gannets in the last three years at the ecological reserve about 200 kilometres southwest of St. John's. There was another large-scale chick desertion in 2012, he said.
"There's only one thing that would force a chick to be unattended at its nest, and that's because its parents can't get enough food and get back to feed it."
Montevecchi has repeatedly called for more research to monitor seabird colonies.
"They're environmental archives. They give us baselines to understand what's happening in the ocean."
House said "Puffin Patrol" is a vehicle to explore such issues through one particularly loved bird.
"I hope people will get a little bit of a greater understanding of the ecosystem and how we are such an important part of it."
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