Wildlife Recovery Training in Chico

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Yesterday Becky, Stephanie, and I traveled to Chico, CA for our first inland Wildlife Recovery training.  The group we were targeting was North Valley Animal Disaster, a group that joined the OWCN very recently (although we had one representative from the USFWS at the training as well). Chico is positioned at the intersection of some major railways, and just to the east of Chico is a designated “high risk area” for crude transport by rail.

It was a fun day and students practiced old skills and learned new skills, including how to use a GPS, a VHF radio,and how to capture and handle birds safely.  The day ended with a review of the skills taught throughout the day with a mock oil spill involving a train derailment in the Feather River canyon. Students were “deployed” in teams to collect oiled wildlife.


The next Wildlife Recovery Level 2 training will be taking place at the San Francisco Oiled Bird Care and Education Center in Fairfield on April 16. If you are interested in this training you will need to be affiliated with an OWCN Member Organization or Affiliated Agency.

In addition, the pre-requisites are:

  • ICS-100 training
  • Current 24-hr HAZWOPER
  • Completion of OWCN Core Webinar series
  • Wildlife Recovery Level 1 webinar

You will also need to be in the new OWCN database. If you have questions about setting up your profile in our new database or accessing the webinars, please email Stephanie Herman (scherman@ucdavis.edu) or Becky Elias (baelias@ucdavis.edu).

Hope to see you at the next training!


The OWCN Wants You!

Uncle_Sam_(pointing_finger)The Wildlife Health Center is currently recruiting for a senior staff position as a Wildlife Recovery Coordinator. Under the general direction of the Deputy Director – Field Operations of the Wildlife Health Center’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), this position will coordinate wildlife capture activities for the OWCN during oil spill response. During non-spill periods, they will ensure oil spill readiness by leading wildlife recovery training/informational workshops for staff and volunteers throughout California, engage in research activities to ensure ‘best achievable collection and care’ of oiled wildlife, help oversee the use of staff and volunteers in the field, supervise the acquisition and management of supplies necessary for field operations, and assist with teaching and public service activities.

For more information and to apply: Visit the UC Davis Job Posting at http://www.employment.ucdavis.edu/applicants/Central?quickFind=70231

Priority Application Date: By March 20, 2015

– Mike

ATV Training Spots Available

Hello all!

I wanted to make sure everyone is aware that we have four more ATV trainings coming up in southern California:

  • March 16 and March 17 – at Hungry Valley SVRA (north of LA area)
  • March 19 and March 20 – Rancho Jamul (San Diego area).

There are currently several spots available for these classes. If you are a Hazing or Wildlife Recovery responder, this is a great training to have, and it is a lot of fun to take! In order to take this training, there are several pre-requisites:

  • OWCN Core Webinar series
  • ICS-100
  • Current 24-hr HAZWOPER
  • Wildlife Recovery Levels 1 and 2 (if Wildlife Recovery responder)

If interested, please sign in to your OWCN Responder profile to register.  You will find the courses listed under the “Sign Up” tab.

Most likely, these will be the only ATV trainings this year, and they don’t come around too often, so take advantage of them! We provide all the equipment you need, except for boots.

As usual, let me know if you have any questions (kyparker@ucdavis.edu).


Successful Launch of Field Processing Level 2 Training

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What is Field Processing?

• The primary purpose of Field Processing is to safely collect photographic, natural history and external petroleum sample evidence prior to movement of NOAA species (pinnipeds, cetaceans, sea turtles) carcasses from initial stranding sites.
• While the remains of small animals such as seabirds can be placed in containers that prevent possible cross contamination during transport, this is difficult to achieve with large carcasses such as those from sea lions or dolphins. Therefore it is necessary to collect baseline samples before the carcass is moved.
• Field Processing team members are trained to obtain evidence at the site of the stranding and to maintain an intact Chain of Custody of evidence between collection of the carcass and final examination at a Primary Processing Facility where a more complete post-mortem evaluation is performed.
• The ultimate objectives are to collect dead oiled wildlife to reduce environmental contamination, prevent secondary exposure of scavengers from oil ingestion, to support post-mortem diagnostic testing that can inform care of live oil affected animals and to support natural resource damage assessment.

What happens during a FP training?

Last Sunday, twenty-four highly talented and motivated instructors and BeachWatch volunteers launched the first ever OWCN Level 2 Training for Field Processing of NOAA Species. The 6-hour training was graciously hosted by the California Academy of Sciences.

The first part consisted of a lecture that described the steps required to collect evidence and maintain an intact Chain of Custody. This was followed by a hands-on wetlab. Participants started by practicing photographing and obtaining petroleum sample evidence from a “model” carcass (inflatable dolphin). Next students practiced filling out the associated paperwork including federal Chain of Custody forms.

In the afternoon a short lecture covered methods to safely move large and heavy carcasses from the beach to a vehicle. This was followed by demonstrations on safe lifting techniques, use of various types of transport equipment and proper loading of vehicles.

How can I get involved?

Completion of Field Processing (FP) Level 2 training is required for all people that will be working on a FP team during oil spills and for those assigned to FP management level positions. Pre-requisites necessary to be eligible to register for a FP Level 2 training include:
• Association with an OWCN Member Organization (and approval from that organization) or a local, state or federal agency
• Significant experience collecting natural history data from NOAA species (pinnipeds, cetacea, sea turtles) and recording scientific data
• Physically fit. Able to work long hours, including weekends, and outdoors, even in inclement weather. Able to lift at least 30 pounds.
• Registered in the OWCN Better Impact personnel database.
• Completion of the OWCN “Core” webinar series (N=4).
• Completion of ICS 100 training and successful upload of certificate to Better Impact.
• Completion of 24 hour HAZWOPER training or 8 hour refresher within last 12 months and successful upload of current certificate to Better Impact.
• Completion of OWCN Field Processing Level 1 webinar.

If you are interested in becoming a Field Processing responder and you belong to a Member Organization or Affiliated Agency, please contact Nancy Anderson for further information (nlanderson@ucdavis.edu)

Many thanks!

This training was the culmination of a collaborative effort between the National Marine Fisheries Service / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association / BeachWatch, the California Academy of Sciences, Point Blue Conservation Science and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN).

Funding for the training was provided by a Prescott Grant awarded to Moe Flannery from the California Academy of Sciences and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. This training would not have been possible without the expertise and contributions from the following people: Moe Flannery, Dru Devlin, Kirsten Lindquist, Sue Pemberton, Diana Humple, Jan Roletto, Sarah Wilkin, Mike Ziccardi, Kyra Mills-Parker, Tim Williamson


New Trainings and Webinars Available

Attention OWCN responders – registration is now open for multiple ATV classes in southern California.  If you are interested in taking one of these classes, log into your responder profile and register under the “sign up” tab.  Please note that we only have three spots available in each class, so signing up will not guarantee a spot in the class; you will be notified whether you have a place or not.

Additionally, we have two new webinars available for viewing.  Transportation will cover the transport of oiled wildlife from the recovery site to field stabilization or primary care, and will highlight health and safety.  Trauma Resiliency (also known as Compassion Fatigue and Trauma Exposure) will explore a topic that many in the rehabilitation field will be familiar with.  This webinar covers how to stay emotionally healthy in the high stress environment of animal care, especially during spill times when the stress is ongoing.  Both webinars are great additions to our library and making sure our responders are prepared for anything!

As always, please remember to complete the prerequisites for these trainings prior to signing up.  You can check which trainings you have completed in the “qualifications” portion of your responder profile.  When you complete a training, please allow 1-2 business days for a completion to show up on your profile.


Oil Spill in Bangladesh – Q & A with Mike Ziccardi

Please see below for a video and a partial transcript from a Q & A session with Mike Ziccardi in regards to December’s oil spill in Bangladesh!



A cargo ship rammed a tanker in Bangladesh’s Sela River in December of 2014, spilling 92,000 gallons of oil into the world’s largest mangrove forest. The Sundarbans, which is where the spill happened, is listed as three different wildlife sanctuaries, and is a world heritage site. OWCN Director Mike Ziccardi was called in to help with the assessment, spending about two weeks in the country during the spill’s aftermath.

We sat down with Mike a few weeks after he got back to talk about the experience.

When were you called in to the situation?

A week after the spill, I was contacted with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) because the Bangladeshi government was considering using chemical dispersants to get rid of the oil. Due to my involvement with NOAA in writing the national guidelines for oiled marine mammal response, I was put on stand by and then deployed as part of the UN Mission along with USAID and other American experts from NOAA.

What was your recommendation regarding chemical dispersants in this case?

Chemical dispersants can be useful, but they can also be dangerous in sensitive habitats because it does not completely get rid of the oil, and the chemicals can introduce more concerns. The possibility of the chemicals being absorbed by a lot of creatures and plants was a large concern because the spill was very close to shore.

When is using a dispersant a good idea?

They are less risky to use in open water areas. In California we have the pre-approval to use some dispersants if needed, but they need to be used off-shore. For example, if they wanted to use a dispersant in the San Francisco Bay, there would need to be an extensive discussion with great consideration of the potential negative impacts.

What were some of the chief concerns in regards to this spill?

The Bangladeshi government became very concerned about the environmental damage to the Sundarbans and for the wildlife living there, particularly because there are more than twenty globally endangered species of wildlife in the area. The royal Bengal tiger lives in the Sundarbans, and we believe there are less than 200 of them in the area. There are also two species of dolphin (Irrawaddy dolphin and the long-nosed Gangetic river dolphin) that reside there, both of which are threatened or endangered internationally.

What was the local response to the spill?

When an oil spill occurs, the first week is typically devoted to clean- up. With this spill, they had no spill response capabilities in the country. The Bangladeshi government did send some Navy ships out to use a contaminant boom (a temporary floating barrier used to contain an oil spill), but unfortunately the oil went right under the boom. A majority of the oil clean- up was done by local fisherman, with no protective gear, boots, gloves, or training on how to handle an oil spill.

How did the spill happen?

This passageway was a tanker vessel’s access to the sea. Unfortunately, the legal way to pass through this area was blocked off due to sediment build up, so shipping had to go through the Sela River. Commercial ships are not allowed in this part of the Sela River because there are three dolphin sanctuaries in the river and the spill actually occurred in one of them.

What was evaluated from the spill?

Four of the response subgroups were dedicated to mangrove, aquatic habitats, and the impacts on the people in the area. We were able to determine some of the acute impacts right away, however some of the recommendations we are making to the Bangladeshi government are long term, to make sure that we are looking at the overall picture. We want to continue accessing the environment and wildlife for at least the next 2-3 years for population changes.

What are the main concerns for the wildlife in the area?

The freshwater crocodile in the area are fairly endangered, and oil can affect the eggs that they lay. If the oil that is in the environment washes over the eggs, the population can be affected. There are also two populations of river otters, which are at a high risk of oil problems, so we need to monitor those. Of course the two populations of dolphins and the tigers all need to be monitored as well—to see if they are hunting and moving away from their habitats.

What are the next steps for the preservation of the Sundarbans?

Right now we have a report that was generated through the UN Mission which discusses the need for ongoing assessment of the Sundarbans, in addition to recommendations for response planning for future spills. I believe there will be a UN group going back to the Sundarbans and that the Wildlife Conservation Society will likely also be going back as they are the world’s leader in fresh water dolphin research and took part in the spill response. My hope is that they will be able to develop a plan for the dolphins in the area and for the people around the Sundarbans with local and international support.

— Interview and video by Desiree Aguiar and Justin Cox

Training In Azerbaijan

Hello all- This week I was fortunate enough to be asked to help our partners International Bird Rescue (IBR) on a IMG_1775training in Baku, Azerbaijan. Now if you are an American like me, your geographical knowledge is less than stellar, so here is a map of the region. The reason Azerbaijan is an important spot for oil spill training is that the Caspian Sea is a major production area for oil, with the resultant crude then being sent via pipeline through Georgia to the Black Sea, or then through Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea. The city of Baku itself reflects this relatively new increase in production and prosperity. Old, USSR-era buildings blend in with modern high-rises with amazingly graceful design. Baku is also home to the first European games this summer, so sports complexes are being built throughout – each of which rival the complexity of those seen in Beijing for the summer olympics!IMG_1799 The training itself was two separate 2-day overview trainings given to industry representatives, governmental officials (from ministries and the state oil company), zoo staff, university faculty and students, and local ornithological members, among others. Curt Clumpner, Barbara Callahan and I walked everyone through information pertaining to all of the different areas of an oiled wildlife response (from field ops to release), but also spent time on planning, response management, and discussing the existing plans should a spill occur here in the region. The most engaging part of the class was when Curt broke the class into smaller groups, gave them the footprints of one of three areas where facilities would likely be developed were there a spill (in Alaska, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) and had themIMG_1817 develop a workable plan – thinking about animal flow, zoning, utilities, and all the important aspects needed for an effective response. He even made them think about a variety of species, including porcupines and terrestrial reptiles! For me, there were three particularly notable aspects of the training that really stood out. First was the excitement and interest that was evident in most of the younger NGO and zoo participants, and the intense desire by the governmental and industry participants to develop a working plan for effective oiled wildlife response. Compared to many classes, we were constantly behind schedule simply due to the number of great questions being raised on all of the material! Second, it was great to work with world experts on the Caspian seal, a globally endangered phocid smaller than our harbor seal but at great risk in the region due to its ecology. IMG_1805Through my work with NOAA and helping to steer the National guidelines for oiled marine mammal response, speak with these biologists and helping to work through potential response options was particularly gratifying. Last, working with Barbara and Curt really helped to highlight the strong, world-class partnership that exists between IBR and the OWCN. The training itself went almost seamlessly between the three of us as trainers, with each of us helping to answer questions and make comments as they arose, and it was clear to all in the questions and comments we received that both organizations were world leaders on oiled wildlife readiness and response. IMG_1835So, as I sit in the Baku lounge waiting for my VERY long flight back to the States, I find myself very happy for the opportunity to experience another culture this year (Bangladesh in Jan, Azerbaijan in Feb, ??? in Mar), but also for the great work that the oiled wildlife response community is doing worldwide to better prepare to respond should animals be in crisis during spills. It also makes me VERY grateful for the thousands of excellent responders and pre-established facilities we have in California. There is truly no place like our state as far as the readiness to deliver best achievable capture and care 24/7/365! – Mike