New Webinars!

Western Pacific Leatherback Turtle.  Photo Credit: Heather Harris

Western Pacific Leatherback Turtle. Photo Credit: Heather Harris

The OWCN has added three new webinars to our Special Topic library.  Each of these is presented as a recording and is available now (please see the OWCN contacts at your Member Organization for registration links).

Our new webinars include:

  • Sea Turtles: Natural History & Oil Spill Response
  • Avian Gavaging Technique
  • What is Normal: Spotting Trouble During Wildlife Recovery
Common murre

Common murre

Just a reminder that our Special Topic webinars are for continuing education for our existing volunteers that have previously been involved with our webinar series.  Brand new volunteers should begin with our Core webinar series, that contains introduction to spill response webinars.

If you have any questions, please contact me at


It’s That Time of Year Again!

“What time of year again?”, you ask yourself. The answer, of course, is HAZWOPER! June and November are the two months a year that we offer free online re-certification to staff and volunteers at our member organizations and affiliated agencies. Because we have been doing this for a couple of years already, many people are on “a schedule”, which has the huge advantage of making it easier to remember when it is time to re-certify. If you are due for an 8-hr HAZWOPER Refresher, you have roughly two weeks (until October 31) to send me an email to let me know you would like to take this online training.

Just a reminder, to stay current with your HAZWOPER training (and to be able to respond in the event of a spill), you need to take an 8-hr HAZWOPER Refresher once a year. If you don’t re-certify within 24 months of your last HAZWOPER, you will need to re-take the entire 24-hr HAZWOPER class (that’s 3 days, folks!), which is no fun for anyone, so please don’t forget to re-certify within a year, every year. Being HAZWOPER-trained is required for people that work in the field (Wildlife Recovery and Hazing), and is required for filling staff level positions, both in the field and at a facility.

I have already heard from 70 of you, but if you haven’t already, please email me if you would like to sign up for the November 8-hr HAZWOPER Refresher (  If you are a new volunteer, I will send you a form that you will need to fill out prior to being accepted for taking our trainings.  We also have to have records of your original 24-hr HAZWOPER or your latest 8-hr HAZWOPER Refresher (if you didn’t take them through OWCN), before allowing you to register for this training.


“mini” Oilapalooza

Here at OWCN we realize that the lack of an Oilapalooza 2014 is being deeply felt. Therefore, we’ve decided to put on a training day on California’s central coast, in Morro Bay.

On Saturday, October 25, we’ll be teaching hands-on labs on Pre-wash Care, Pre-release Conditioning, Avian Necropsy, and Intake & Processing at the Pacific Wildlife Care facility in Morro Bay. You can sign up here. The password is pwc2014.

Although PWC is hosting, anyone from an OWCN Member Organization can attend. We know it’s a long drive from pretty much anywhere, but we think the beautiful surroundings make it more than worth the trip!Morro Bay sailboats

Hope to see you there!


Hope for the Future

It’s easy for those of us who care about the earth and its residents (be they animals or humans) to get depressed when we read or watch the news. However its good to remember that it’s not all gloom and doom. Just this last week there have been at least three notable success stories that can help give all of us a little hope.

The first has been in the headline news. An estimated ~300,000 demonstrators converged in New York on September 21st to peacefully participate in the People’s Climate March. The March was scheduled the day before a United Nations climate summit meeting so World Leaders could personally experience this groundswell of public support for action to reduce the effects of Climate Change and its detrimental effects to the ocean.

The second story did not receive as much press, but is expected to have an unprecedented conservation impact. On September 25th, President Obama signed a proclamation that will expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from 83,000 square miles to 490,000 square miles. It will be the largest protected area on the planet and is expected to benefit endangered Hawaiian monk seals, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, tuna, coral reefs, and millions of sea birds and fish.

I quietly found the final story online while I was looking for some inspiration for this blog.

This story describes National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project. Since its launch in 2009, the program has been successful in protecting over 150,000 square miles of unspoiled ocean as “no-take” zones in countries as diverse as the United States, Chile, Kiribati and Costa Rica. The global initiative continues to spearhead efforts to eventually protect over 770,000 square miles that will represent the “last wild places in the ocean”. The website has a short video clip that further describes the project and its grass roots approach. Even without the message, the video is worth watching if you enjoy stunning underwater photography.



oiled puffin face

Wear and Tear on the Heart

oiled puffin face

Work in wildlife rehabilitation and/or rescue long enough and you’ll hear this term: compassion fatigue.  You’ll hear it whispered as people point to burnt-out, angry colleagues.  You’ll nod sagely to yourself when an intern breaks down crying over a bird that didn’t make it overnight.  You’ll attend the talks and read the articles that tell you to remember to laugh and take time for yourself.

And if you’re like me, you’ll be a little bit suspicious of the whole touchy-feely psychological mess.  You’ll be proud that your practicality and clinical detachment keeps you grounded.  I mean, you’ll take it seriously – after all, this is your career, and you won’t go down because of ignorance – but a little (or big) part of you believes that it doesn’t apply to you.  You’ll be listening so you can help your volunteers, interns, shift-mates, or employees – not yourself.

If you’re really on top of things, you’ll crack a joke now and then (often the type that outsiders would blanch at), try to make sure everybody gets a lunch, and feel guilty every time you complain.

All the while, that practicality is insisting that you don’t have time for lunch.  Clinging to detachment leaves you feeling like maybe you aren’t cutting it, because that one animal’s situation really upset you.  And the seasons pass, you start to realize how big the task is, how repetitive – no number of education programs will get people to keep their cats inside, no safety precautions will keep every drop of petroleum where it belongs.  You love your job and there are moments where everything is gravy, but interpersonal conflicts are getting harder and the hours are getting longer.

I’ll cop to it – that was me a few years ago.  I’ve been in rehab a long time; since my mother was a home rehabilitator, I almost can’t remember a time spring didn’t mean baby squirrels.  I definitely can’t count the number of folks I’d seen “burn out” over the years.  But I always thought compassion fatigue had everything to do with death and euthanasia, and because I grew up beside them, my relationship with these events is not nearly as conflicted as other people’s.

Enter Lauren Glickman of Foray Consulting, who presented a day-long compassion fatigue workshop for the staff of my employer at the time (PAWS Wildlife Center).  Lauren had worked as the PAWS volunteer coordinator before my time, and everyone who knew her was very excited to have her back to speak.  It wasn’t long into the workshop that I found out why.

This workshop wasn’t like the talks and articles.  Lauren brought a new perspective on the problems caretakers face (or, as she would want me to put it, the problems caretakers choose).  She brought real, applicable tools – things far more tangible than “don’t forget to laugh.”

There are a host of joys associated with wildlife rescue!  When we choose to rescue wildlife, these are the reasons.

There are a host of joys associated with wildlife rescue!  When we choose to work in this field, these are the reasons.

See, the problem isn’t that animals die, or that we’re somehow constantly grieving.  Working hard isn’t the enemy.

What really wears at us is feeling powerless and hopeless when faced with an unending task.  It’s never resting.  It’s being surrounded and focused on negativity.  It’s being completely unable to give yourself permission not to feel guilty when you need to stay home sick, because something might not get done or other people have to pick up the slack.  It’s feeling responsible for things we can’t control, and beating ourselves up for being unable to change those things.  And all of that, I could relate to.

There are also many difficulties or sources of pain.  But when we choose to work in this field, we choose these things right along with the things that bring us joy.  They are inextricably linked.

There are also many difficulties or sources of pain. What we don’t often think about is that when we choose to work in this field, we choose these things right along with the things that bring us joy. They are inextricably linked.

I can honestly say that workshop changed the course of my life.

So when I had the opportunity to introduce OWCN to Lauren, I jumped on it – and I’m proud to announce that we hosted the pioneer Trauma Resiliency workshop on September 5th, with 25 attendees representing 14 different organizations.  The goal of the workshop was to “provide the employees and volunteers of OWCN disaster response efforts the tools needed to recognize, address, and minimize disaster-related stress and compassion fatigue.”  I hope we did just that.

This isn’t the last you’ll be hearing on this topic.  We want to build up a culture among our responders that values the long term over the short term, that puts emphasis on self-care so that we can continue to provide the highest quality of care for the impacted animals that depend on us.

So keep an ear out – we hope to offer this workshop again in the future (hopefully a bit further south!).  Lauren will also be helping us develop a webinar, so everyone will have access to basic information on this topic.

If you’d like to start now, I strongly recommend the book Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky.  Barring Lauren’s workshop, this is the single most useful resource addressing this topic that I have come across.

A few other resources that Lauren suggested at her workshop, for those who are interested:

Thanks for the work you do, everyone.  You are making a difference – don’t forget to feel good about that fact.


Wildlife Recovery Boat Safety Training

This past week Tim and I were in Bodega Bay (at Bodega Marine Lab) to teach a Boat Safety and On-Water Capture Techniques training.  We were lucky to have an additional instructor, James Fitzgerald, who is the UC Davis Boating Safety Officer, and is extremely knowledgeable.  These trainings are meant to provide Wildlife Recovery personnel with knowledge on how to be an active and helpful crew member if they ever find themselves deployed on a boat as part of oil spill response.  In addition, in this training there is a large emphasis on how to keep themselves, and others, safe – this includes knowing how to rescue someone that falls overboard.  The morning was a combination of lectures and hands-on activities covering the following topics: on-water capture techniques, weather, useful knots, communication and risk management.  In the late morning the students wriggled into wet suits and braved a cold pool to learn to do rescues, try on and float around with different PFDs (Personal Floatation Devices), and to learn how to rescue someone in the water with a throw rope and a life ring.  In the afternoon we did boat rotations to reinforce what was learned in the swimming pool, practice using a GPS (Global Positioning System) for navigation, and VHF radio for communication, and to learn a few techniques on how to capture birds with a dip net from a boat.  All in all, a fun day for all of us.  Thank you to Tim and James for helping to teach and to all the participants for their great enthusiasm!  I plan on having more of these trainings in 2015.  Hope to see you there!


Richard and Dani catching decoys.

Richard and Dani catching decoys.

Learning how to rescue someone that falls overboard.

Learning how to rescue someone that falls overboard.

The group, including Oscar, the rescue dummy.

The group, including Oscar, the rescue dummy.

Why I Work with Wildlife

At some point in time, almost all people that rescue wildlife are asked “Why do you do it?” Sometimes after a summer of long, hard days we also have to ask ourselves. While there are many reasons, I just want to share one of them with you.

My husband & I have been busy at work this summer, but the stars aligned so we were able to get a few days off at the same time to backpack the Lost Coast. Its a 24 mile stretch of northern California coast that was never developed since the terrain is so rugged that engineers decided to take Highway 1 inland rather than try to push through. Its been on our bucket list for some time.

It was the most physically demanding backpacking trip I’ve ever been on. Not the most in miles, but the terrain was really tough. Jumping from beach rock to beach rock on slanted surfaces for miles on end. Also, we had to keep a reasonable pace in order to make it through the sections that can’t be passed during high tides. The rocks ended up ripping the sole off one of my boots. Good thing Gorilla Tape is TOUGH! Even so, it was quite worth it, especially the southern section of the trail. Very pristine. Less people. More wildlife.

We woke up one morning to an otter family chirping at each other. A momma and two kits about 2/3 her size. Mom had already caught a 10″ long, thin fish. It took her about 20 minutes to eat it. During this time she was sitting on a rock outcropping on the beach. The ocean waves kept coming in and bowling over her kits. While she was eating she didn’t seem to care. However, once she had a full tummy, she became a fantastic Mom. She took the kits out into the ocean. First she caught a small fish that she gave to the smaller kit. The kit swam it in to shore and started feasting with rapt attention. In the meantime, Mom caught a crab and gave it to the other kit. Both kits were beyond belief adorable with cute otter faces and butts!

Once the kit on shore finished eating, he suddenly remembered that he wasn’t near his family, so he started chirping frantically. Mom answered and he started to swim to her, chirping the whole way until he was on top of a wave and could see her. Then he stopped chirping. However as the wave fell and he couldn’t see her he started to panic and chirp again. Once on top of the wave and in view again, he stopped chirping. He repeated this 3 times before he reached Mom. It was quite comical since he wasn’t in any danger. When he finally got near Mom, he immediately jumped on her back for a ride. Because he was so big, he almost drowned her. Once he calmed down, she kicked him off. We ended up watching them for about an hour!

So this is one reason that I work for the Oiled Wildlife Care Network: To work to preserve and raise awareness of the importance of pristine wilderness and the wildlife that depends on it. When I am exhausted from writing one more protocol, checking a training status in the database, or gavaging one more seabird, I think about what these animals would be doing if it weren’t for our communal dependence on fossil fuels. Then I resolve that I will do everything in my power to make sure if any animal is oiled that it has the best chance possible to return to its wild life.


Start of the Lost Coast Trail

Start of the Lost Coast Trail









Punta Gorda Lighthouse

Punta Gorda Lighthouse



View of Lost Coast

View of Lost Coast



Otter family

Otter family









Hiking on rocks!

Hiking on rocks!



Look what we found outside our tent...bear tracks!

Look what we found outside our tent…bear tracks!











End of the trail!

End of the trail!