Today was a good day in the “Oiled Mammal/Turtle Unit” (catchy, huh). Lots of activity, great ideas and energy from our partners, forward progress on the overall plan but, as in life, it is the curve balls that keep things lively.
We were able to finalize plans to get experienced volunteers (or “paraprofessionals”) the required OSHA training needed to help on wildlife operations. The Safety Unit has done an outstanding job getting trainers set up to provide these for us. At this point, the focus is getting this training to those folks with a background in wildlife and an affiliation with a permitted or authorized wildlife organization. This helps the Safety folks ease their concerns on the hazards intrinsically associated with wildlife (bites, scratches, pecks, slipping in mucky pens) while getting us needed folks to help in their care. If the response widens on the wildlife side, we may need to re-evaluate the criteria. However, as much of the need right now is setting up facilities and equipment to care for future patients (as we only have the one gannet in care), getting this going in this way will work. For those interested in helping, keep checking back on our homepage where we will post the most current info possible on volunteerism. And don’t stray too far from your phone!
Speaking of setting up facilities, the “OMTU” (OK, I’ve officially been working too closely with governmental acronyms this week – Oiled Mammal/Turtle Unit) did an amazing job today scoping out additional sites to stage turtle (and possible small cetacea) sites. The other sites we will be readying (should they be needed) will be at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, MS, Gulfarium in Ft. Walton Beach, FL and Gulf World in Panama City Beach, FL. These four facilities (including Audubon Aquarium of the Americas) will serve as needed to receive and de-oil turtles, with clean animals possibly moving to additional facilities should the numbers be high (I should re-emphasize that all of these facilities will be at the ready should animals come in, but do not have oiled turtles there now, so we will mobilize our trained volunteers there once animals are found). This region, fortunately for me on the response side but unfortunately for them or the animals, has a large amount of experience with large influxes of turtles due to cold snap. We need to make changes due to the oil effects and dangers, as well as the presence of different species that don’t like each other too much in the same pen, but we are currently finalizing a comprehensive turtle treatment and sampling plan that each facility will follow. Great work all!
The biggest challenge today was beginning to wrestle with our issue that we are headed directly into turtle nesting season. Dr. Teri Rowles, quickly becoming an indispensable partner for me here at the CP (the cool way to say Command Post – impress your friends and amaze your guests), is working with the stranding coordinators, clean-up operators, and the other scientists here to compile a comprehensive plan on how to protect nests in the path of the spill as well as how to respond should it become oiled. Our hope is to never have to enact this plan, but the concern and risk is high.
Well, I think that is enough for tonight. The Teri/Mike To Do List (TMTDL) is done, with 14 must do items and many slots open for the things that crop up during the day. It always feels as if there are several steps taken forward, with a few back, each day. However, it is critical to keep that forward momentum going,as the wildlife are relying on it.