Refugio pelican update

As many of you know, the OWCN is thrilled to be conducting a post-release monitoring study on some of the oiled pelicans from the 2015 Refugio spill in Santa Barbara. Working with Dr. Pat Jodice from USGS (that’s the US Geological Survey) and Clemson University, we outfitted 12 oiled pelicans and 8 control pelicans with satellite transmitters so that we could track their movements and compare survival and behavior between oiled and control birds. Such studies are critically important for improving capture and rehabilitation techniques, understanding the effect of oil spills on populations, and for demonstrating the value of rehabilitation.


As you can see, we’ve got birds from Oregon to Baja California! Some of these pelicans have traveled well over 5000 kilometers since release.

It may be difficult to interpret this map, so I thought I’d give you a little summary. Three birds are hanging out in southern Oregon or the Oregon/California border. Another two birds are in Monterey Bay, and two more are at Morro Bay. One pelican is at Gaviota, and five are in the Ventura/Channel Islands area. Three are in the greater San Diego area, and three are in Mexico — one near Ensenada, one in the Gulf of California, and one on the east side of the Gulf of California.

Pretty amazing, huh? We certainly think so! I’ll be posting a map every few weeks, but if you want to follow the birds yourself, go to this link.

(I know, it’s called Atlantic seabirds, and these are clearly Pacific seabirds . . . . long story but try to ignore it!)

The rehabilitated pelicans from the spill are banded with metal federal bands as well as large green bands. If you happen to see a green-banded pelican, PLEASE let us know!! Report them here.

If you happen to see a blue-banded pelican, report it here.

Sorry for the long post, but I really hope you get as much of a thrill from seeing these maps as we do!


It’s almost Thanksgiving!


Photo credit:

Photo credit:

In addition to being thankful for our families, friends, wildlife and living in America, I also wanted to thank each and every one of you for your dedication to saving injured and oiled wildlife. You make the world a better place!

Now, if you are like me and looking forward to a little more down time over the holiday weekend than usual, perhaps you will be interested in getting outside to enjoy some healthy wildlife!

If so, here are some websites to check out to see if there are any special events or sites near you.

Bird Migration Walk — Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Saturday, November 30, 1-2:30 p.m.
See phalaropes and other shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl. Meet at west end of Dumbarton Bridge. info and directions: 510-792-0222, ext. 141. No entrance fee. All programs are free.

Turkey Trot — Modoc National Wildlife Refuge
Thursday, November 28, 9 a.m.
5K walk/run. Look for mule deer and eagles. Expect to see lots of waterfowl, including Canada geese, pintails, mallards and shovelers. Event info: (530) 233-3111. No refuge entrance fee. Event fee: $20.

Wetlands Walking Trail, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 2 miles, with optional shortcut. Wildlife: Shorebirds, grebes, ducks, geese, raccoons. This marsh trail has a viewing platform. See even larger concentrations of ducks and geese along the 6-mile auto tour route. Entrance fee: $8 per vehicle. Pick up a map and brochure at the kiosk outside the visitor center.
More info:

North McCoy Trail, Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 1.1 miles. Wildlife: Terns, vireos, pelican
More info:

Refuge trails are open sunrise to sunset daily, even on Thanksgiving Day when refuge visitor centers will be closed. Free trail maps are available outside the visitor center or at a refuge entrance kiosk. Add a scenic ride along a refuge Wildlife Drive. For more Refuge System trails, visit

Photo credit: Leave No Trace,

If none of these featured hikes are convenient, check out some of the following websites for ideas closer to home:

Photo credit: Project Wildlife

Photo credit: Project Wildlife

Happy T-day!


World Seabird Conference


Opening plenary for the 2nd World Seabird Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, October 2015.

Curt and I just returned from Cape Town, South Africa, where we attended the 2nd World Seabird Conference (“Seabirds: Global Ocean Sentinels”).  With almost 600 participants from over 50 different countries, it was a week filled with excellent presentations about fascinating seabird topics from around the world. Topics presented ranged from tracking studies, seabird population health, top-down control of seabirds and seabirds as indicators of ocean health, to population ecology of penguins and advancing seabird conservation.

Curt and I were there to present during the “Impacts of Oil Spills on Seabirds” symposium, which was dedicated to our friend and hero, Jay Holcomb, whose legacy you can learn about here. This symposium was built upon the momentum that was started at the 41st annual Pacific Seabird Group meeting in Juneau, AK, which included a Special Paper Session on oil spills. Given that the 1st World Seabird Conference didn’t have a dedicated oil spill session, it was an honor to be invited to help organize and be a part of this session. Oil spills play a major role in seabird mortality throughout the world, and I don’t believe that a seabird conference would be complete without a discussion of how oil spills impact seabird populations.

Curt’s presentation was entitled, “Oiled wildlife response: a review of advances and continuing challenges”, and mine was, “An assessment of oiled seabird rehabilitation success: a review of California spills, 1996-2011”.  Other presenters during this symposium included Karin Sievwright and Bridey White (Massey University), Peter Dann (Phillip Island Nature Parks), Christopher Haney (Terra Mar Applied Sciences, LLC), Juliet Lamb (Clemson University), and Peter Barham (University of Bristol).

It was truly an inspiring week, and we were happy to be able to take part in it.


Responder Database Update!

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 4.44.29 PM

As many of you have probably already seen, our responder database recently got a bit of a face lift!

The good news is that nearly all of the substantial changes are on the admin side, some of which actually address feedback we’ve provided!  Other than a sleek new color scheme and a few name changes (“Sign Up” is now “Opportunities” and “Assignments” is now “Schedule”), you may also notice the help section has been streamlined and now includes a whole host of super-short videos demonstrating how to navigate your account.

Becky and I are working on updating our reference materials to reflect the changes (and also exploring the new options we might take advantage of in the near future), but in the meantime, we encourage you to play around with the pretty new interface – and as always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions!

Take care,

Steph Herman

Come and Gone!

And so, just like that, Oilapalooza 2015 has come and gone.  This year’s Oilapalooza drew a record crowd of more than 170 participants from 35 member organizations and affiliated agencies!  Wow!  It was wonderful to see all of you again, to meet new people, and to welcome new member organizations into the network.  Thanks to everyone for making it such a fun and successful Oilapalooza, and thank you for deciding to spend your weekend with us.


GREAT Turnout for Saturday Lectures!

Fun was not in short supply: Saturday was a day full of interesting talks, including several Refugio talks, one about the OSPR and OWCN inland expansion, a couple talks about the new and upcoming electronic data collection for recovery and care, among others. We also had most of the member organizations and agencies give a brief overview of any news they wanted to share.  It is always enlightening to hear what groups have been up to (this year the answer to that question is MURRES…and lots of them!).

We ended the day with a reception and raffle at the hotel in Emeryville. Sunday was another exciting day, with 13 different workshops to choose from! They all took place at the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Fairfield. We had people blowing up wavy men (as one potential hazing technique), learning how to capture inland species, practicing how to place a wing wrap on a bird, and getting to open up marine mammals and birds during the necropsy workshops.

Workshop Folks Learning About Visual Hazing Methods on Sunday

Workshop Folks Learning About Visual Hazing Methods on Sunday

Oilapalooza is not only fun for learning new skills and hearing about new research, but it is tremendously valuable for coming together as a network. Just like each branch of a tree gives the tree its collective strength, so does each individual from each member organization and affiliated agency, in making the OWCN the best oil spill response network in the world.

I know I speak for all core OWCN staff in saying that we are so grateful for each and every one of you, and your contribution in making the OWCN amazing. See you next time.

– Kyra

Oilapalooza 2015!!

We look forward to seeing everyone this weekend in Emeryville and Fairfield for two days of networking and learning! Here are some reminders for those attending the conference:

Lectures will be held on Saturday, October 17th at The Hilton Garden Inn in Emeryville. A continental breakfast will begin at 7:30am, and lectures will start at 8:30am. Lunch will be provided on Saturday. Following lectures, a reception will take place at The Hilton Garden Inn.

Parking at the hotel will be free for conference attendees, even if you are not staying at the hotel.  Just take a ticket when you park and have the front desk staff validate it before you return to your car.

Lab assignments will be provided in your welcome packet, which you can pick up during sign-in on Saturday morning before the lectures start.

All labs will be taking place at the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Fairfield.

Workshops will be held on Sunday, October 18th, at the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center. Morning labs run from 9:00-11:30am and afternoon labs run from 1:00-3:30pm. Please make your own transportation arrangements for Sunday morning, as transportation will not be provided. Directions to your workshops and parking information will be available in your welcome packet. Meals will not be provided on Sunday.

Cancellation Policy

If your plans change and you cannot attend the conference, or if you indicated that you would attend the Saturday reception and cannot, please notify us at by October 3rd. If we do not receive your cancellation for the conference and/or reception by October 3rd, up to $100 will be deducted from the available travel and lodging stipend for your Member Organization ($50 deduction for reception cancellation, $50 for conference cancellation).

Travel safely and we’ll see you by the Bay!


Two new webinars available!

A brand new NOAA Species Field Processing Level 1 webinar is now available. Completion of the OWCN Core webinar series is required to gain access to this 47 minute webinar. The course provides an overview of evidence collection of NOAA species (pinnipeds, cetaceans and sea turtles) while they are still on the beach. Participants must complete this webinar and ICS 100 training to be eligible for the next 1 day, In- person Field Processing Level 2 workshop.

An updated version of the Field Stabilization Level 1 webinar is also now available through Better Impact. As with the Field Processing webinar, completion of the OWCN Core webinar series is required to gain access to this 55 minute webinar. The course provides an overview of Field Stabilization for seabirds. Completion of this Level 1 webinar and ICS 100 training are required to be eligible for the next 1 day, In-person Field Stabilization Level 2 workshop.

If you are a registered responder, you can access these webinars through your OWCN Responder Database account (sign in through  Under the Sign-Up tab, you’ll find the NOAA Species Field Processing Level 1 webinar in the Field Level 1 Section. The Field Stabilization Level 1 webinar is located in the Avian Care Level 1 Section.

To register for the webinar, click on the name of the webinar. Then click on the “Sign Up” button. Click on the “Assignments” tab from the top menu, and you will see the webinar listed below.  To view, hover your mouse over the name of the webinar for a few seconds, and additional instructions will pop up.

If you experience any difficulties in accessing any training on Better Impact, please contact Stephanie Herman or Becky Elias.

Happy webinaring!

If you haven’t already completed the training, I’ll look forward to seeing you at a Level 2 Field Processing or Field Stabilization training in the near future.