A quick trip to Monterey Bay

April 10, 2014

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to spend three days with the Monterey Bay Operations satellite of The Marine Mammal Center. My main goal for this trip was to gain more field experience rescuing California sea lions, harbor seals and elephant seals. After consulting with The Center Stranding and Rescue staff, I scheduled my visit for the beginning of April because this is the time of year when elephant and harbor seals start to wean. Inevitably some individuals have trouble making the transition to living on their own. When this happens they often end up stranding on beaches in the central coast area of California.

While April is not the usual time of year for a large number of California sea lions to be in need of evaluation, this year increased numbers have been affected by domoic acid toxicity. Domoic acid is produced by an algae. When the populations of algae become high, the toxin is concentrated by fish commonly eaten by sea lions. Affected sea lions show neurological signs that can range from lethargy to seizures. To learn more about domoic acid toxicity, please visit the following link: http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/science/top-research-projects/domoic-acid-toxicity.html

So the first week of April was an excellent time to join forces with the The Marine Mammal Center staff and volunteers who respond to calls from concerned members of the public who report finding distressed seals and sea lions. After carefully obtaining contact information for the caller and location & condition data about the animal, the Center response teams assure the caller that they will check on the animal. Often the most important advice given to the caller is to stay at least 300 feet away from the animal, so as to not stress it or in the case of harbor seals to prevent a mother from returning to its pup. The good news is that in most cases, the animal is not in trouble. Well-intentioned people often hear typical vocalizations or observe normal eye & nose secretions and confuse them with disease. However, there is no way to tell the difference from a phone call, so Center teams are deployed to evaluate the situation. When there is a problem, the rescue teams professionally develop a plan to recover the animal. Both animal and personnel safety is of paramount importance. To learn more please visit the following link: http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/Get-Involved/awareness-campaigns/leave-seals-be.html

I have enclosed a slide show below to depict some of the responses that I was privileged to take part in. I want to thank the folks at The Marine Mammal Center for their hospitality, camaraderie and the wonderful learning experience. It was also wonderful to know that we were able to step in and help several seals and sea lions to have a second chance at having a successful and wild life.

–Nancy

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National Volunteer Month

April 7, 2014
Volunteer recruitment poster from the Marine Mammal Center.

Volunteer recruitment poster from the Marine Mammal Center.

April is National Volunteer Month, and the OWCN staff would like to extend a big thank you to all the pre-trained volunteers in our network! We truly believe that we have the greatest volunteers out there. We are lucky enough to receive volunteers from all of our 30+ amazing Member Organizations around the state – so we get the best of the best on our responder list!

Nancy Mix of International Bird Rescue takes a break from volunteering with a feathered friend.

Nancy Mix of International Bird Rescue takes a break from volunteering with a feathered friend.

The OWCN is unique because we don’t get to see our volunteer’s faces very often during non-spill times. We have an online relationship with you all, with the occasional meet up at Oilapalooza, drills, and outreaches. It makes it that much more difficult to accurately reflect our gratitude for all the hard work that each volunteer puts in toward being prepared for oiled wildlife response. That being said, we would like you all to know that we actually do see the effort each volunteer puts into their training, and we are aware of how dedicated each of you are to your Member Organization, and to the wildlife in California.

A virtual flowered thank you to all our volunteers!

A virtual flowered thank you to all our volunteers!

So as a reward for all our fantastic pre-trained oiled wildlife volunteers, we send virtual flowers of gratitude (see picture), and urge you all to treat yourself to some ice cream, or a massage, or dinner and a movie, or a new book, or all of the above – you certainly deserve it! And the next time you see any OWCN staff visiting your organization, please come say hi, so we can have the chance to talk in person.

-Becky


Drill Report from Field Operations

March 20, 2014

“The way to do fieldwork is never to come up for air until it is all over.”
Margaret Mead

Well, it wasn’t quite that bad, but Field Operations was definitely kept busy testing out three Groups: Wildlife Recovery, Field Stabilization and, for the first time, Marine Mammal Wildlife Recovery. This was also the first time OWCN deployed a separate Transportation Coordinator to mange the logistics of moving oiled animals from the beach to Field Stabilization and to Primary Care.

Our drill scenario included a magnitude 7.5 earthquake that occurred at the Cascadian Subduction Zone 45 miles West-Northwest of Humboldt Bay at 10:34 PM on March 16, 2014. The waves resulting from the quake reached Humboldt Bay around 11:00 PM. The 6-foot tall waves caused 5 moored vessels inside the bay to collide and release fuel. Initial volume estimates ranged from hundreds to thousands of gallons of diesel. In addition, a local refinery reported a release of 50 – 100 barrels of gasoline from a terminal on the west side of Arcata Bay.

The next morning, once there was light to see, our field teams got to work right away. Wildlife Recovery Teams met at the Sprinter (the mobile office for Wildlife Recovery operations), for a briefing on paperwork, safety, and team assignments. The “injects” (snippets of information that keep the drill moving forward) came in the form of index cards in bird carriers, and the Wildlife Recovery teams were given instructions to open these at specific times.

In the meantime, the Field Stabilization (FS) team efficiently set up the MASH (Mobile Avian Stabilization Hospital) trailer and prepared to receive birds collected by the Wildlife Recovery teams. Once the birds arrived at the MASH, FS personnel gave each bird a brief initial physical examination. Then they administered appropriate supportive care such as heat, fluids, and First Aid for any significant wounds. Once birds were stable, FS staff contacted the Transportation Coordinator to arrange transfer to the Primary Care Center where they received more in depth examinations and treatments.

At the same time, the Marine Mammal Wildlife Recovery teams were out on the beach responding to calls of distressed harbor seals and even a beached killer whale. We were certainly glad that this was only a drill! In addition to marine mammals, the team was asked to rescue an oiled beaver. Luckily, we were able to contact Bird Ally X for help; they provide wildlife rehabilitation services to the Humboldt region. Their experienced staff was deployed to capture the unhappy rodent and transport him to the Primary Care Center.

As coordinators for the Field Operations, both Kyra and Nancy want to thank the Wildlife Recovery, Field Stabilization, and Marine Mammal Wildlife Recovery personnel for their enthusiasm and excellence in rescuing and stabilizing a wide diversity of animals during this drill. Personnel came from more than six different organizations and we were so impressed with how well they seamlessly merged into field teams.

At the end, we all gathered at the Primary Care Center to go over “plusses” and “deltas”. On the plus side, the field teams commented on the outstanding teamwork and organization/efficiency of the response. For “deltas” (room for improvement) some equipment requests and paperwork adjustments were identified. This “hotwash” discussion is one of the most important parts of the drill, because it allows us to identify ways to improve our response in the future.

Once again, the entire OWCN team would like to thank all the staff, volunteers, and agency personnel who participated in the drill and made it such a success. Your hard work is greatly appreciated, and we look forward to seeing all of you again (at a drill, not a spill)!

–Kyra & Nancy

Wildlife Recovery teams  bringing rescued birds to the Sprinter van in preparation for transport to Field Stabilization located at the MASH

Wildlife Recovery teams bringing rescued birds to the Sprinter van in preparation for transport to Field Stabilization located at the MASH

Field Stabilization personnel meet prior to setting up the MASH trailer

Field Stabilization personnel meet prior to setting up the MASH trailer

Field Stabilization personnel using drill to set jacks for MASH trailer

Field Stabilization personnel using drill to set jacks for MASH trailer

Marine Mammal Wildlife Recovery team practices netting oiled harbor seal

Marine Mammal Wildlife Recovery team practices netting oiled harbor seal

Drilling proper procedure to obtain photo evidence during recovery of oiled cetacean

Drilling proper procedure to obtain photo evidence during recovery of oiled cetacean

Marine Mammal Wildlife Recovery personnel recording data during recovery of oiled harbor seal during drill

Marine Mammal Wildlife Recovery personnel recording data during recovery of oiled harbor seal during drill


Drills are a Gift

March 20, 2014

At a company where I used to work, we were often told that “feedback is a gift,” and after Monday’s full-deployment drill in Arcata, I find myself thinking “drills are a gift”! The drill was incredibly valuable, both for us and (hopefully) for all the participants. Despite the somewhat isolated location, we had representatives from at least 10 member organizations and numerous affiliated agencies; if we add in observers, we had over 70 people attend.

From my point of view, the drill was an essential tool for testing out the flow of the renovations on the facility, and although it’s not perfect (and what is?), it’s a huge improvement from before the changes. And, of course, like all changes, these will take a little getting used to . . . . at least twice I walked through a door and emerged in a different room than I thought I would!  But putting my spatial challenges aside, it was a great experience and a greatly needed one.

I’d like to thank Tamar, Rick, Dan, and the other Rick for all their help before and during the drill. Without their help, we wouldn’t have had nearly as successful a learning experience as we did. Most of all, I’d like to thank each and every one of the participants. You took it seriously, you worked hard, and you worked together smoothly and effectively.

Thanks everyone! Let’s all use the momentum created by this drill to keep up with our training. Maybe check with Becky to see if there are some webinars you should take, or figure out if your HAZWOPER training needs refreshing. It’s always a good time to maintain readiness!

- Christine

Staff and volunteers assembling net-bottomed pens at the MWCC

Staff and volunteers assembling net-bottomed pens at the MWCC

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 Working through Support issues at the MWCC


Drill Time!

March 3, 2014

As I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago, the OWCN is having a full-deployment drill up north in Arcata on March 17th. We’re starting to get excited about it, and with 46 people signed up, it’s going to be a fun time! We already have numerous member organizations and affiliated agencies represented at the drill, which is great because it gives people a chance to interact with people they don’t work with on a daily basis.

Our facility, the Marine Wildlife Care Center, administered by Humboldt State University, just underwent some major renovations, so a key objective of this drill is to learn the flow of the new floorplan and get comfortable with the changes. Tim is the only one of our core staff who’s seen the facility since the renovations; the rest of us have to wait until the drill.

If you’re interested in participating, ask the OWCN contact at your member organization to forward you the invitation. This Thursday, March 6th is the last day to sign up. Let me say that again. Final day to register for the Arcata drill is THURSDAY MARCH 6th.  If you email or call us on March 7th and ask if you can come, we’re going to say “No.” I’d like to think we’ll say it nicely, but I’m not making any promises ;-). Just kidding, of course — we’ll be very nice, but we’ll still say no!

There are several reasons for the strict deadline, not the least of which is that Lavonne is going to arrange for us to have a lovely lunch, and we need to give her a final head count for the caterer.

Please consider joining us “behind the redwood curtain” for a fun day of learning as we test our readiness in this vulnerable stretch of coastline.

Oh yeah, the deadline.  Did I mention that there’s a deadline to sign up? It’s Thursday, March 6th.

Christine


A little more reaching out

February 28, 2014

Wednesday I had a chance to work with the WAAM Club (Wildlife and Aquatic Animal Medicine) from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. This Club is organized by veterinary students that are interested in aquatic, zoo, wildlife medicine. I teamed up with veterinarians from the Sacramento Zoo (Drs. Ray Wack, Anne Burgdorf and Katie Delk) to offer a wetlab on the placement of intraosseous catheters in birds. One of the advantages that intraosseous (e.g. within the bone) catheters have over the more commonly used intravascular catheters is that they are excellent for use in small sized animals that are suffering from shock. These patients have small veins to begin with, so when their blood pressure is low, such as when suffering from shock or blood loss, it can be almost impossible to thread a catheter into a blood vessel. Luckily bones don’t collapse. Plus, except for pneumatic (air filled) bones in birds, most other limb bones are filled with bone marrow. These bone marrow cavities are directly connected to large central veins, so inserting a small rigid catheter into one of these bones is equivalent to establishing a central venous catheter. This is a valuable technique to teach future veterinarians, because sometimes, it is the only way that intravenous fluids or other medications can be administered to severely debilitated oiled seabirds. –Nancy

Initial lecture for intraosseous catheter placement wetlab with Wildlife and Aquatic Animal Medicine Club at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UCDavis

Initial lecture for intraosseous catheter placement wetlab with Wildlife and Aquatic Animal Medicine Club at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UCDavis

Pointing out site to insert an ulnar intraosseous catheter to a WAAM veterinary student
Pointing out site to insert an ulnar intraosseous catheter to a WAAM veterinary student
Palpating the wing to determine the proper site to insert an intraosseous catheter

Palpating the wing to determine the proper site to insert an intraosseous catheter


Snow, Marbled Murrelets, Glaciers, and Seabird Talks

February 27, 2014

Mike and I recently returned from Juneau, Alaska, where we participated in the Pacific Seabird Group annual meeting.  Between Thursday and Saturday of last week we were able to listen to a number of interesting talks about seabirds in the Pacific, learning everything from what seabirds eat to the most technologically-advanced gadgets for tracking seabirds (perfect for a gadget geek like me!).  In addition, Mike and I were co-conveners of a Special Paper Session entitled, “Oiled Seabird Rescue and Rehabilitation: Is it Worth It?”  This session was well-attended and featured ten excellent presentations.  The following is a list of the titles of the talks and the presenters:

  • Oiled seabird rescue and rehabilitation:  is it worth it? (Kyra Mills-Parker, OWCN – UC Davis)
  • Variables that can affect survival of oil-affected seabirds before, during, and after the rehabilitation process (Michael Ziccardi (OWCN – UC Davis)
  • Magnetic cleansing of oiled seabirds:  where are we and where to next? (Peter Dann, Phillip Island Nature Parks, Australia)
  • Impacts of major oil spills in California, 1994-2013 (Hannah Nevins, UC Davis, DFW-Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center)
  • Longevity and dispersion of rehabilitated seabirds and waterfowl, 1980-2010: preliminary data from oiled bird band returns (Becky Duerr, International Bird Rescue)
  • Penguins clearly benefit from rehabilitation following exposure to oil (Valeria Ruoppolo, Univ. of Sao Paolo and IFAW)
  • Oiled wildlife response in New Zealand: the C/V Rena incident (Kerri Morgan, Massey Univ., presented by Michael Ziccardi)
  • Causes of seabird mortality in the immediate aftermath of the Rena oil spills, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand (Shane Baylis, Monash Univ.)
  • Impacts of the 2001 Jessica oil spill on endemic and native Galapagos birds, reptiles, and mammals (Howard Snell, Univ. of New Mexico)
  • Seabirds, oil spill response and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: DWH and changing management priorities (Roger Helm, USFWS)

Each of the talks offered interesting and thought-provoking information on different topics related to oil spill events, the effects of oiling on seabirds, and summaries of impacts and rehabilitation efforts. Full abstracts of each of these talks can be found at the PSG website by clicking here. The meeting provided a great opportunity to re-connect with old colleagues, meet new ones, and share ideas.  Despite the 50+ degree difference in temperature between Juneau and California, Mike and I were warmed, humbled, and inspired by this conference.

And yes, we did  see snow, glaciers, AND Marbled Murrelets (the last two only at a distance!).

Kyra

Image

Mike Ziccardi and Becky Duerr with Mendenhall Glacier in the background.


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