I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving yesterday. It’s Chris again, blogging after a long hiatus. If you attended Oilapalooza this October, you might have an idea of where I’ve been. At Oilapalooza, I was over 8 months pregnant, and during the week before, jokes abounded among our staff about me going into labor before, during, or just after the conference . . . . . But naturally, we were all joking; after all, I wasn’t due until the very end of October and first time moms give birth on average 5-7 days *after* their due dates. The Monday after the conference, I went to work, drove home, had dinner, went to sleep . . . . all just like any other day. Then I woke up at 1:45am in labor! So much for statistics and averages! Rafael was born Tuesday morning, and he’s now almost two months old. The OWCN team brought my husband and I to tears with all their support — they brought us home-cooked food daily, showered Rafael with gifts, visited us, and generally helped us keep our sanity during those first weeks. I was on maternity leave for six weeks, but two weeks ago I happily came back to work and joined the team. On my second day back, I helped out with the Western grebe capture that Mike talked about in the previous blog. The weather was beautiful, we had a great time, and we all learned a tremendous amount from the Washington Fish & Wildlife team. Now we are gearing up to put all our new knowledge and skills with grebes to the test with the transmitter study that Mike mentioned. Historically, grebes have been difficult to keep in captivity and difficult to follow after release. Using the techniques we just learned, Joe Gaydos and the OWCN are planning to capture a small number of WEGR’s and, with the help of an experienced surgeon, implant them with satellite transmitters. We’ll be using a new surgical technique that Joe has been perfecting, and we have high hopes that we’ll be able to successfully release and track these animals. Because WEGR’s suffer the double whammy of being often impacted by oil spills AND being in decline along the West coast, having the ability to track them is especially important for conservation and management of the species. At Oilapalooza this year, there was a lot of talk about the importance of post-release studies, and WEGR’s are a species that we really want to be able to monitor in the event of a spill, so that we can evaluate our care protocols and hopefully improve them. Stay tuned for more updates about this exciting study in the weeks to come!