National Lampoon’s San Diego Vacation

Polar bear at Sea World

(Thanks to Becky for the title!)  Last week our team took a trip to (not-so-sunny) San Diego for a visit to our Sea World partners and then a training course put on by OSPR.  Lauren and Diana, our hosts at Sea World, arranged for a fabulous behind-the-scenes tour for Kyra, Becky, Emily, Tim, and me, including a a meet-and-greet with Obie the walrus and some very friendly penguins.  We started out our tour with Mike, who showed us their sea turtle “nursery” and introduced us to an old green turtle in rehab.  Fortunately he’s almost ready for release.  We then went to the Arctic and saw the polar bears prancing around their enclosure and playing with a boomer ball.  Then we met with Obie, who was quite the gentleman!  Everyone got a chance to feed him and experience his amazing vacuum suction as he scarfed down him fish.  Mmmmm, yummy fish.  After our close encounter with Obie, we went to meet the penguins. Lauren introduced us to some of her closest friends.  Then we toured the oiled wildlife facility and dropped off the new R & T kits that Kyra has put together.  These kits are going to be great for streamlining the R & T process.  Kyra has kits placed at various facilities up and down the California coast, so we’ll be ready for search and collection activities at a moment’s notice.

That afternoon we headed to the Bahia Hotel and got settled in.  We met the two blind (and therefore non-releasable) harbor seals that live in a pool at the hotel.  On Tuesday morning, the Environmental Response to Oil Spill course began.  The curriculum covered all aspects of response, not just wildlife operations, so it was a great learning experience for us newbies.  We learned a lot about trajectory modeling, boom deployment, natural resources damage assessment, and alternative technologies such as dispersant application.  We also heard a lot of anecdotes about both the Deepwater Horizon and the Exxon Valdez spills. Dr. Alan Mearns brought his whole series of photos of “Mearns’ Rock,” a boulder in Prince William Sound he has been photographing yearly since 1990.  It clearly shows how dynamic the recovery process can be, and illustrates how challenging it is to determine what is “normal” for a habitat.

Relaxing in San Diego

We also got to socialize with some of our colleagues, including Sarah Wilkin, the incoming marine mammal stranding coordinator for California, and Debbie and Lisa from the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach. The highlight for us was of course hearing our fearless leader, Mike, lecture on the OWCN.  Since Mike’s a San Diego native, he knows the hotspots in town, and he took us to a great Mexican place for dinner.

All in all, it was a great week filled with lots of learning (and walrus kisses).


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