Region 2/3 Sign Up and Scheduling Drill Q & A

Last week folks in Regions 2 and 3 (see map) had the opportunity to participate in an online oil spill drill where volunteers and staff practiced signing up for shifts and the OWCN Management Team practiced assigning people. CA-CDFW-regions-300x344We did this several months ago with Regions 4 and 5, and made several adjustments based off of that drill, so today we wanted to share some feedback from the Region 2/3 drill. Don’t worry Region 1, you’re next…

First, a quick description of how the drill was played. An announcement was sent out that there was a drill scenario, and we asked people to log into their profiles and sign up for shifts they wanted to come to in Field Operations or Care Operations (Primary or Field Stabilization). This was the first area that deviated from previous drills. We learned from the past drill that people found it confusing to sign up in a general availability activity, and then be assigned to an actual shift from that general availability. Now, people are indicating exactly what they want to sign up for, and we are approving or declining that sign up.

One other interesting fact that we found was that when people had the opportunity to sign iwanttovolunteer.pngup to volunteer for multiple shifts in a single day, they did. When asked, most people said they wanted the option to sign up for longer periods of time. So our shorter shifts will never go away, but we will definitely have the option for people to sign up for more than one shift in a day if they want to.

We found that the vast majority of people found the instructions to be clear, had  few technical difficulties, and overwhelmingly found this drill to be valuable, so we will continue to take your feedback, make improvements to the process that will make things easier for our responders, and then drill again! Some of the great questions people had we want to share with everyone:

Q: You forgot to put the link to our responder page in the email/The link is missing/I don’t have the link to sign up.

A: So we actually didn’t forget – it was done on purpose! The reasoning was two parts. First, since this was a drill, we wanted to see if people were able to easily access their profiles to sign up. Ideally we want everyone to be accessing his or her profiles regularly to keep contact info up to date, and to make sure everyone is familiar with how our system works. Remember, during a spill, we won’t have time to help everyone with forgotten missing-linkpasswords and issues of not remembering how to log in. The second reason, is that during a spill, we can’t put this link in anything that the public might see, or we will have a rush of people going to that website, and it may crash. So if we put out a Facebook announcement that we urgently need responders to go sign up for shifts, we can’t put a link in, because the public would see it. The link will likely go out in email announcements, but again, we want to make sure everyone is familiar enough with the website that they can just go to it without prompting.

Q: We had a number of questions and comments in regards to our volunteer software, how it works, and whether the programmers can make changes.

A: The short answer is what you see is what you get! This is not a custom program, so while the programmers can make changes to the software, they don’t work directly for us. This is a program that is made for managing volunteers and is sold to organizations around the BIpic.jpgworld. We use this software much differently than most organizations, because our volunteers don’t come in for regular shifts, they come in under emergency response scenarios. So we use the software in a way that it wasn’t really intended for. However, we have looked at many programs, and this was the one that gave us the most flexibility. We will always continue to look for ways to tweak how we are using the program and make it easier for you all to participate.

Q: I don’t understand how the timeclock works/why not just log hours?

A: For many of you, this was the first time you saw the timeclock. This was intended as a way for you to get to see the timeclock and know what it is, but it left some people confused. When you take a webinar, you are given the option of signing into your profile and ltimeclock-150-2ogging hours for the time spent on that activity. During a spill, you will not log your own hours, but instead will use a timeclock. When you arrive for your shift and check in, there will be sign in stations where you will log into the timeclock, starting a running clock for your shift. When you sign out for the day, you will stop the clock, automatically logging all your hours. You won’t have to use your own device; you will use the computers we have available for check in. In our efforts to show everyone what the timeclock will look like, it seems that we confused people even more! In the future, we will use the timeclock at all in-person activities instead, in order to get practice using it, and will leave online activities to be counted via logged hours.

Q: There were several problems with people getting kicked off while giving feedback after signing out of the timeclock/“Do you wish to continue” messages kept appearing.

A: Yeah, that was annoying. There was a glitch that caused that message to appear, even if you were actively filling out feedback, and even booted some people off as they were leaving feedback. We aren’t going to attach feedback questions to the timeclock any longer to avoid this.

There were several more questions, however, this blog is getting to be on the lengthy side. Please know that we take into account everyone’s feedback and are continuing to work on ways to make this as easy as possible for people. Keep on the lookout for drills in the future for more practice, and be sure to stay active in your profile to be prepared for spill response.


Refugio Pelican Update

We wanted to give everyone an update on the post-release pelican study from the Refugio spill, now almost one year ago. You may recall that 12 oiled pelicans and 8 control pelicans were outfitted with satellite tags so we could compare their movements and survival. In addition, all oiled pelicans that were released (not just the satellite tagged pelicans) got a green color band.  Please report all pelicans with green bands to us here if you see them. While you are out looking for pelicans, if you do happen to see any with blue bands, please report those birds to International Bird Rescue.  Even though we have a few control birds from this study that are sporting blue bands, most of the pelicans out there that have blue bands were rehabilitated by International Bird Rescue, and getting reports on where these birds are is extremely valuable.

Currently we have about 6 or 7 birds still transmitting. Two birds, one control and one oiled bird, have made some trips to Anacapa Island as if they were thinking about breeding, but they haven’t been there lately, so it’s unlikely that they are breeding.

A couple of control birds are hanging out in San Diego, and one of the rehabilitated birds is at a large lake in Baja California. Two other rehabilitated birds are in Baja; one is traveling north in the Gulf of California, and the other is in the central part of the Gulf of California. This last bird is a challenge . . . his satellite tag has stopped transmitting for extended periods of time, and then suddenly starts transmitting again right about the time we’ve decided the bird (or the tag) is dead. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible!

This May 7th, Audubon California sponsored a Brown Pelican Birding Blitz, where members of the public were encouraged to go find and report pelicans (AND maybe see some color-banded birds!). We are waiting to hear if anyone saw our green-banded birds! More information about the Blitz can be found here.

Here’s a map of the pelicans from the past month. If you look carefully around Los Angeles, you can see a bit of yellow peeking through — those dots all got covered by the bird in red. And near San Diego, you can see some blue dots . . . . that’s our bird with the satellite tag that seems lazy.


Current locations of Brown Pelicans that are part of the post-release study from the 2015 Refugio Oil Spill.

– Christine

Member Engagement at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito

Last Thursday, Kyra, Scott and I traveled to The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. It was great to see familiar faces and watch Scott feel right at home returning to his old stompin’ grounds. It was also exciting to meet dozens of volunteers and staff that weren’t acquainted with OWCN. In fact it was just these folks that we wanted to get to know better.

Scott Buhl approving of the new loading dock. No more sore backs!

Scott Buhl approving of the new loading dock. No more sore backs!

After the Refugio Spill and with ongoing changes in ocean temperatures causing unusually high numbers of California sea lions to strand, it is apparent to OWCN that if there is another large oil spill, it is likely that significant numbers of sea lions will be at risk of oiling.

So the purpose of our travels was to invite additional staff and volunteers from The Marine Mammal Center to learn more about OWCN and encourage them to sign up in the Responder Database so they can have access to OWCN training opportunities such as webinars, HAZWOPER training, OIlapalooza, etc.

Kyra talks to staff and volunteers at The Marine Mammal Center about Activation during an oil spill

Kyra talks to staff and volunteers at The Marine Mammal Center about Activation during an oil spill

If you belong to an OWCN Member Organization or Affiliated Agency and have not yet signed up in the Responder Database, I encourage you to contact your Volunteer Coordinator or Agency Primary Contact to learn about how you can sign up in the database.

Another good reason to travel to Sausalito was to have a chance to check out the ongoing construction at The Marine Mammal Center which includes a large paved pad that can be used to set up Field Stabilization and Wildlife Recovery trailers or tents in the event of an oil spill.

Checking out the paved area at The Marine Mammal Center for staging Wildlife Recovery or Field Stabilization vehicles and tents in the event of an oil spill response

Checking out the paved area at The Marine Mammal Center for staging Wildlife Recovery or Field Stabilization vehicles and tents in the event of an oil spill response.

Barbie Halaska inspecting the new construction

Barbie Halaska inspecting the new construction

Its always such a good feeling when we can see the results of all the work OWCN and our Member Organizations put into the four “R’s”: Readiness, Research, Reaching Out and Response. Last week we had the opportunity to celebrate two of the pillars of Readiness: our amazing people and our facilities.

Our most valuable asset. You!

Our most valuable asset. You!


Calling All Pelican Lovers!

If you love pelicans and if you would like to help out, May 7 is a day you should mark on your calendar. On this day, between 5-7pm, you can join other pelican enthusiasts as they help survey California Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) roost sites along the coasts from California up to Washington state. The idea is to count juvenile and adult birds, take photos, and enter the data into the eBird portal. This tri-state survey will help define the distribution and abundance of the pelican, and complement a 47-year time series of monitoring of this pelican subspecies, which was removed from the Endangered List in 2009.

BRPE Cropped

Brown Pelican from the Refugio Oil Spill.  Photo Credit: Mike Harris

Remember the oil spill that occurred in 2015 near Santa Barbara? The pelicans that were oiled and rehabilitated from that event are banded with green color bands with white numbers. A small subset of these are also satellite tagged. If you see any of these birds, or one of the control pelicans wearing blue color bands, we want to hear about it! We are tracking these birds to get a better idea of how birds fare after being oiled and rehabilitated. Please help us (and the pelicans!) by keeping an eye out for these banded birds. If you do happen to see any of these birds, please report it by going to our website and clicking on the link at the bottom of the home page.

So grab your binoculars, spotting scope, a good camera, and head to the coast on May 7. For more information, take a look here and here.

Thanks for caring!


Cropped 1090

Encouragement from the Next Generation

Here at headquarters, we deal with a lot of mail on behalf of the Network – advertisements, catalogues, invitations, and by far the most exciting: notes of encouragement.  Often these notes come from enthusiastic young people who have been learning about oil, oil spills, and the environment.


By Parshall

We’re always thrilled to receive these thoughtful notes and drawings.  They’re a reminder that not only are we working for the animals, but we’re working to preserve the wonder of the natural world for future generations.  The animals aren’t able to speak for themselves (and if they could, they’d tell us to stay away from them), but these students, our developing researchers, advocates, innovators, volunteers, and spill responders, certainly can.

So I’ll let the voices of our future take it from here!

“Thank you for saving every plant, animal, or any kind of anything… I would want to work there too. But I’m only 9 years old. I’ll probably work there when I’m older.” – Ava

“Thank you for taking care of our environment. Without you, thousands of animals would have perished. We thank you for giving your time and effort… The thing that concerns me the most about an oil spill is that one might hurt the environment for good.” – Sophie


By Suzanna, Ava, Rhea, Kate, Sarah, and Sam

“We are writing this letter to thank you for saving wildlife from oil spills. Recently, we have been learning about how hard your job is and what it takes to save poor animals from oil. We did experiments that helped us learn about how hard your job would be on a daily basis. We also learned how delicate you have to be with the animals to ensure that they don’t get hurt… We would also like to thank you… again. For the effort and hard work. Also that you save all those animals.” – Nikkie, Lisa, Lily, and Andy


By Libby

Thank you for helping animals that have been effected by oil spills… I love all animals so when I hear about an oil spill my first thought is, “Are the animals okay?” – a 5th grader

“I am writing to thank you for keeping our oceans and marine life free of oil pollution. My class and I know that it is hard work because we did a pie-pan oil spill cleanup experiment… My group and I discovered that this is not an easy task. We can’t even imagine trying to clean up real-life oil spill in the ocean and handle real, breathing, wiggling animals.  Again I want to thank you so much for volunteering to make a difference for the environment. Your time and effort to keep our ocean life oil-free is highly appreciated by millions and, most importantly, by Mother Earth. Keep up the great work!” – Emma

National Volunteer Week Round Up

Hi Everyone,

To wrap up National Volunteer Week, we have a re-cap of our volunteer profiles that we posted this week.  A big thank you to each and every one of the OWCN’s volunteers – we can’t do this without you!



mary feeding swiftsMARY PIERCE

Mary Pierce has been volunteering with International Bird Rescue since 2007 and in avian wildlife rehabilitation for 16 years. She also volunteers at Native Songbird Care & Conservation.

When asked about the best part of volunteering, Mary says, “having the opportunity to help all of the beautiful and amazing birds that come into care. It is very rewarding to be able to give them a second chance at life and freedom. It never ceases to amaze me how each species as well as each individual is so vastly different and unique”.

And on oil spill response, Mary says, “Oil spill response is a difficult and heart wrenching job. It can also be extremely fulfilling and rewarding. I feel that as human beings, it is our responsibility to do all we can to mitigate the effects of our negative environmental impacts. California is very lucky to have an organization like the OWCN and I am proud to be a part of it”.

When not working with birds, Mary enjoys working with stained glass and has recently been obsessed with finding and trying all sorts of bird related crafts, and is working on transforming her yard with native plants.


Andrea Muenter has volunteered with Pacific Wildlife Care since 1999, and with OWCN since 2003. She first helped respond to an oil spill in 2005 for the Ventura Oiled Bird Incident.

Her favorite thing about volunteering is making a difference and giving these animals another chance. When asked about her thoughts on oiled wildlife response, she says, “Wild and free is what these animals are all about. Taking that away from them by damaging their lives and habitat is something that hits me very hard. Oiled wildlife response is so important to me because it allows me to fix the wrong and get these animals back to what they were meant to be… wild and free”.

Andrea’s favorite animal is a tiger, and when asked to share a fun fact about herself, she says, “Aside from the wildlife, my other passion is playing volleyball. I play beach volleyball at Pismo Beach as often as I can. I am the team manager, organizer and captain of a women’s indoor volleyball team who is now playing in the 55-59 age group. We travel the state and the country to play against women in our age bracket. Six years ago, I traveled to Europe on a Goodwill tour and played volleyball against Italian, French and British teams. I really love the sport!”.


Dani Nicholson volunteers at Pacific Wildlife Care AND The Marine Mammal Center! Dani has been volunteering with OWCN since 2003, and her favorite thing about volunteering is learning skills to help save animals and getting to work with like-minded people.

When asked about her thoughts on oiled wildlife response, she says “I have always taken    oiled wildlife response very seriously. I believe that we have a responsibility to care for the animals whose lives have been threatened or endangered by man’s mistakes. I’ve seen many birds first hand who have been pitifully oiled and who, after having been rescued, stabilized and washed, returned to their full selves and who appear whole again. It is an incredible feeling to have contributed to that”.

Dani loves all things in nature and art, recently delving into ceramics, and she loves “making something from the earth which can be beautiful and possibly functional. I lose myself in hand building pottery, allowing myself to relax and to feel the earth between my fingers”.

Dani has two sons and two grandsons, loves swimming in the ocean, and has American Indian in her blood and in her spirit.

12986919_988769241158097_1644524231654225901_nGAYLE UYEHARA

Gayle Uyehara volunteers at the California Wildlife Center. Gayle has worked with animals for the last 35 years and has spent the last 13 volunteering with wildlife rehabilitation and OWCN.

Her favorite thing about volunteering is, “Besides the ability to work with and help save wildlife, I love learning and passing what I learn on to others. Meeting and working with like-minded people is a bonus that comes with being part of a good organization”.

Gayle responded in 2005 to the Ventura Oiled Bird Incident and in 2015 for the Refugio Incident. On oiled wildlife response, Gayle says, “The training we receive allows us to adjust both rehab and rescue skills for oiled wildlife response and as long as mankind continues to negatively impact the environment and the animals, we need trained people ready to respond. Why do I feel it is important to respond? It’s the right thing to do”.

As many of you know, Gayle is very passionate about her family, as well as animals and art. You’ve probably seen many photos that Gayle has taken, grace the pages of the OWCN blog, and I’ve had the privilege of seeing many of her beautiful drawings. Her favorite animal? She loves them all, but is partial to birds.

12963784_988239911211030_1983748076668969557_n.jpgNANCY MIX

Nancy Mix is a volunteer at The Marine Mammal Center. Nancy has been volunteering for most of her adult life and has focused on wildlife the past 14 years. While she volunteers with animals first, of equal importance is working with other volunteers, of which she has made many friends over the years.

When asked about oil spill response, Nancy says “Responding to oiled wildlife events is a must. Essentially what we’re doing is trying to minimize someone else’s damage to our wildlife and the environment. From the first phone call your every action is to try and save as many animals as possible from harm”.

I asked Nancy to share something interesting about herself, and she said “Not many people know I own a race horse. She raced for many years and is now retired. I chuckle when I think of how to identify myself. Wife, mother, grandmother, rehabber and a member of The Jockey Club”.




Reducing Wildlife Impacts

For my initial blog post (yes I admit being in absentia on this score), I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about a component of oil spill response that to some degree hangs out in the background of OWCN, but can be especially important in certain types of spills.  It is the part of potential response involving “hazing and deterrents”, or as I like to call it – “Preventive Medicine” for wildlife in oil spills.
TWV_HazingAs the Hazing Coordinator, I lead the hazing and deterrence effort within OWCN.  Because of our expansion to include inland spills, the types of wildlife that we are now tasked with trying to prevent becoming affected includes everything from birds to pinnipeds, amphibians to bears.  In order to assure readiness to accomplish this task, we have expanded our core hazing team in both numbers and locations in the state, and have expanded the range and amount of equipment that is prepositioned for this task. We have incorporated a number of wildlife biologists working for The Institute for Wildlife Studies into this core team due to their extensive experience with a wide variety of species, both birds and terrestrial mammals.  I am also working within the Field Operations group with Scott and Kyra to more closely integrate hazing and recovery activities to better utilize personnel in the areas most needed during a spill. We are regularly consulting other individuals who do hazing and deterrence to get ideas, and are working to widen the group of tools available to us.

Over the past several years we have conducted a number of trainings of volunteers, contractors, and staff in hazing techniques and tools, resulting in a dozen core hazing team members that are trained to lead field teams, and many volunteers that are trained to assist in a hazing effort.  Besides teaching how to properly utilize the tools we have available, we also test or research the wide array of behavioral responses to hazing that various species might have.
TWV_TrainingIn association with keeping up with the latest techniques in wildlife hazing and deterrence, last month I attended the Vertebrate Pest Conference in Newport Beach to learn what techniques people doing non-lethal human-wildlife conflict management are using that could apply to oil spills.  Some of the techniques described in talks at the conference could be especially important for deterring terrestrial mammal entrance into spill zones, so they were of great interest.  I also presented a talk about OWCN’s mission and work, not only hazing but also recovery and treatment.  This was done with the goal of letting some of the other professionals there know that we could be resource for them in the area of research and collaboration, and to improve overall awareness of the important work that OWCN-affiliated organizations do throughout the state.

Finally, we are expanding our interactions with the UC Research and Extension Station network, whose personnel such as Terry Salmon and Paul Gorenzel really started the initial hazing team work with OSPR, and developed key protocols and references we use today (the manual they created can be downloaded here).

TWV_ZonEspecially on the terrestrial mammal side, personnel from the Extension service often have a lot of expertise with deterrence and hazing, and they have allowed us to utilize several of their facilities for equipment storage.  We are quite appreciative of their cooperation and intend to continue to develop the relationship to allow us to give “best achievable hazing and deterrence” so that ideally, care can be a less necessary part of the equation.

– Winston