Well, it is 10:30 pm in Houma and after a 16 hr day at the Command Post, I can almost guarantee that this evening’s blog posting will be shorter.
The day started off working with Dr. Heidi Stout (Tri-State) and the Industrial Hygienists for the response on health and safety training procedures for wildlife workers. Our main goal in response, in addition to helping the oiled animals, is making sure that our workers are a safe as possible from the hazards of the oil (not to mention the pointy parts – note the medical term – of the animals themselves). In working with the response folks here, we were able to come up with a plan to get the necessary training to our professional responders (those with wildlife handling experience that come from a regional wildlife organization or agency) either in person or electronically. These safety plans are also now being folded into the overall volunteer plan so that, if the spill becomes larger and we need “convergent” (or public) volunteers to assist, we can quickly request them through the volunteer coordinator. While seemingly easy on the surface, believe me, getting this plan together for possibly training large numbers of wildlife workers was huge!
Next on the agenda was further developing our emerging plan for sea turtle response. Unlike marine mammals (pinnipeds and cetacea), sea turtles do not yet have extensive plans for oil spill response. That being said, there is a huge amount of experience on turtle husbandry and medical care in this region, so the regional coordinators Wendy and Sheryan, with the help of Dr. Brian Stacy, have taken on the Herculean task of modifying existing plans for spill response. Thank you all three of you!
With the protocols and data sheets being developed, next for the “turtle team” was confirming locations for facilities. The first priority, due to the slick location and risk, was near New Orleans. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas has stepped up magnificently, with Michelle and I working through equipment, supplies, personnel and plans necessary should we find turtles in the region. I will be working on the more fun parts (such as hazardous waste disposal – yippee!) tomorrow with the Disposal Unit here at the Command Post. The “Team” will also be touching base again on other regional facilities (likely at least two more spreading eastward) that we can prepare should animals be collected.
This afternoon, I was fortunate enough to get the assistance of Dr. Teri Rowles here at the Command Center. Teri, whose schedule makes mine look positively anemic, is the Coordinator for NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Program and is a gold mine of information on the ecology of marine mammals, the stranding network, mammal research needs (and background info), and how best to navigate the often-confusing waters of the NOAA system. Between us, we have come up with a checklist of at least 12 additional things we need to get done ASAP (we are both a bit driven that way it appears) and, with her help, I am sure we will. Top on the list is to develop a document (that can be widely distributed electronically and in print) informing the public of what to do in case of spotting a live or dead sea turtle or mammal. We found this extremely helpful for the Cosco Busan spill for birds, and will also help inform the public of the dangers (both to the person as well as the animal) of attempting to capture or collect oiled animal themselves.
Intermixed into all of this was a multitude of emails, meeting with Jay and Heidi before they headed out to the developing bird centers, interacting with the NRDA teams and the Environmental Unit to ensure all the reporting of mammals and turtles is across all the areas, completing the inevitable paperwork required by the system, answering approximately 231 phone calls (or at least it seemed that way) and, of course, checking in on the OWCN gang in Davis (at least briefly). Where does the time go…?
Tomorrow should be another busy, busy day, getting additional facilities identified and supplied, finalizing the plans for animal collection, care and documentation, responding to anticipated reports of oiled animals that come across the Wildlife Hotline, checking off as many of the 12 items on the Teri/Mike checklist as possible, and the numerous other things that tend to pop up in the day. Be back with y’all (yes, I am trying out my Southern) tomorrow.
And I am glad I didn’t bet this post would be shorter tonight…