I have mixed emotions blogging this evening, as I will be leaving Louisiana tomorrow afternoon for a week back in California.
I am very happy to be getting home to my family, as well as checking back with my crack OWCN team in Davis. However, I am also a bit of a control freak – leaving the network and program we have worked so hard to establish here in the Gulf, even for a short respite, is a little nerve-racking for me. Janet Whaley and Sara McNulty from NOAA’s headquarters in DC have joined the OMTU in Houma and they, along with Trevor, will do an excellent job keeping things on task and moving them forward. However, I can almost guarantee you (and them) that I will be checking in more frequently than I should.
This is one thing everyone should know about oiled wildlife responders – we do not relax well during these types of events. To us (as has been evidenced in my previous posts), a one-hour sleep-in is considered a significant break. I have had several staff during spills that, if given a day off, will still come in and work a half-shift as a volunteer. Not healthy, quite possibly a bit psychotic, most definitely a tad neurotic, but reality none the less. Therefore, I may be gone from here but I definitely won’t be out of touch.
As I look back at the progress we have made within our Group over the past month, I am still amazed at what we have developed. We have set up four complete primary care centers for oiled turtles (three of which can also be used for dolphins), collected more than 200 stranded turtles and 20 dolphins (though externally unoiled), captured three oiled sea turtles in an on-sea test capture more than 20 miles out (and planned for a further expansion of this effort to begin early next week), re-worked existing marine mammal protocols to better address animal care needs during this event, written additional care guidelines for turtles and manatees (and tested/refined these turtle protocols when caring for the three that have come in), confirmed necropsy and tissue sampling methods to best determine true oil exposure status in collected animals, helped define the definition of “paraprofessionals” to allow OSHA to recognize a lower health and safety training requirement for our key wildlife responders, trained our key staff on data and sample collection methods, and many many other things that should be noted here but can’t be due to limited space. We are very fortunate not to have needed much of this infrastructure to date, but it is extremely comforting to note that it is there and ready should we need it in the coming weeks to months.
I have been fortunate to date to have worked with excellent staff from a whole host of agencies and organizations (NOAA-NMFS, other NOAA offices, USFWS, LDWF, FFWC, NPS, Audubon, IMMS, Gulf World, Gulfarium). In particular, I want to thank the tireless efforts of Teri Rowles, Barbara Schroeder, Brian Stacy, Wendy Teas, Blair Mase, Nicole Adimey, Jackie Taylor, Trevor Spradlin, Michele Kelley, Sandy MacPherson, Liz Touhy-Sheen, Bob Hoffman and Sarah Wilkin (and many, many more that I remember but don’t have the space to list) for making the OMTU such an excellent team. I am humbled and honored to work with each of you.
And, no, you won’t get rid of me that easily. I will be back in Louisiana on Wednesday 2 Jun, and plan on blogging that night on the latest and greatest that has happened in my (somewhat) absence. So, for now, I leave you with some factoids:
- Turtles collected (as of 0800 25 May): 3 live externally oiled turtles (from at-sea operations; 2 Kemp’s ridleys, 1 loggerhead); 12 externally unoiled live turtles (2 of which have died); 200 dead externally unoiled turtles
- Dolphins collected (as of 0800 25 May): 20 dead externally unoiled dolphins
- Status of necropsies: 67 turtles done to date – no oil noted in or on any turtle evaluated
- Number of people working in the OMTU yesterday: 20 (3 at Houma ICC, 1 at Mobile ICC, 4 at facilities, 4 in field, 8 at remote locations)
- Status of expansion: Standing up St. Petersburg ICC with an OMTU liaison, met with additional facilities for cetacea and sea turtle care in western Florida and Keys
- Where are we on animal care plans: Mammal protocols = completed; turtle protocols = completed; manatee protocols = completed
- Number of facilities in place: 4 (with an additional 4 in discussion)
- Number of organizations/key individuals identified as “paraprofessionals”: More than 200
Until June second then (unless I can’t keep myself from blogging in the interim), in the immortal words of Roy Rogers, “Happy trails to you…Until we meet again”.