So what DO you do between spills?

Aside from how many birds actually live after being oiled, this is likely the number one question that is asked of me on a regular basis. For some reason, many folks outside the oiled wildlife community have a difficult time understanding activities outside actual response that require time and attention. I guess it is like firefighters that have a long period between fires – the sense might be that there is only so many times you can wash the truck or having fun sliding down the pole.

Well, my answer to them is plenty! Being as ready and capable to respond at a moments notice to oil spill events takes a tremendous amount of time and effort on the readiness side as well. For the previous firefighter analogy, checking out equipment, finding the best mechanisms to conduct their activities, maintaining adequate training, reaching out to the local community, and conducting drill and exercises are just some of the many things firefighting professionals must do on a regular, if not daily, basis. Those are the exact things we do here at the OWCN.

As a more concrete example, I figured I would take a brief snapshot of my last two weeks to better exemplify what these readiness type of activities equates to. Here is just a sample:

  • Meeting with Greg Frankfurter to go over his latest research findings on seabird hydration therapy to determine whether oiled bird protocols have to change;
  • Meeting with OWCN staff to finalize presentation plans for the webinar that occurred on 11 June and to plan for the next in the series;
  • Traveling to Seattle, WA to attend a wildlife response equipment deployment exercise (conducted by WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and their partners) showcasing the state’s readiness to handle spills of 100 birds (the OWCN assisted WDFW in developing those aspects of facilities that were needed in such deployments, but the trip was mainly to determine if those mobile aspects of their facilities could improve CA preparedness);
  • Agreeing to assist as a member of a Toxicology Expert Subgroup for NOAA-NMFS to determine potential roles of toxicants in the Unusual Mortality Event continuing to occur in the Southeast in dolphins, including meeting in Charleston, SC early next month;
  • Conducting a 2-hr webinar presentation, teaching volunteers and staff about intake and pre-wash stabilization (and later developing a plan to convey that info when IT issues forced one half of the webinar to be delayed);
  • Traveling to Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network to tour their new seabird complex and to discuss means to assist them in further expansion of their capacities during oil spill events;
  • Attending DFG-OSPR’s Technical Advisory Committee meeting to help make recommendations on how to better implement the State’s oil spill prevention and response programs;
  • Meeting with the DFG-OSPR staff at the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center (in Santa Cruz, CA) to discuss the outcomes of last month’s table top drill exercise, and to discuss more cohesive plans for small, medium and large spills that could impact birds and/or sea otters;
  • Further refining of the upcoming Recovery and Transportation Level 2 training agenda, including specific tasks, presentation topics and confirming deadlines for deliverables;
  • Finalizing the OWCN’s Pre-Proposal selections for the Competitive Grants program, which provides $250,000 of research funding to excellent projects.
  • Scheduling a full deployment exercise for DFG-OSPR’s sea otter floating pens off of Half Moon bay at the end of the month;
  • Completing the first drafts of an online, modularized HAZWOPER refresher course for OWCN that is more applicable to wildlife professionals;
  • Meeting with OWCN staff to discuss additional equipment needs, including finalizing designs for the mobile Recovery & Transportation command vehicle, trailer needs for facility expansion equipment, and applying “lessons learned” from the WA deployment on what could further increase our readiness here in CA;
  • Developing a plan for a full revision of the oiled seabird protocols, to commence early next month; and
  • Refining plans and scheduled presenters and instructors for the upcoming 2012 Annual OWCN Rehabilitation Conference (or Oilapalooza).
While this list dances dangerously close to complaining about too much to do, I hope it helps to describe the great importance the OWCN places on the Readiness part of our program and the lengths to which work towards the best systems possible. Keeping any emergency system in place requires a very active maintenance and improvement program. Thanks to all of the OWCN Members, staff and volunteers for your assistance in this effort by staying current on trainings, sharing your knowledge and desire to test new ideas, and your enthusiasm in helping for the wildlife!
– Mike
MSRC's Mobile Wildlife Facility in Washington (with Bird Rescue's Curt Clumpner in the foreground)

MSRC's Mobile Wildlife Facility in Washington (with Bird Rescue's Curt Clumpner in the foreground)

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