. . always makes me think of the David Bowie song, but with this spelling, we are in fact referring to a more scholarly entity, namely, the Wildlife and Aquatic Animal Medicine club of the UC Davis veterinary school. Mike, Emily, and I gave a training session to about 25 vet students this weekend. We covered the whole gamut of oiled bird care, from effects of oil on animals to pre-release conditioning. Mike even included a review of relevant oil spill legislation and, of course, stuck in a few org charts.
The students were a mix of first, second, and third years, and while some had had some wildlife experience before, most were new to avian medicine. An International Bird Rescue volunteer loaned us her pet ducks, so the students were able to practice avian physical exam skills. The ducks were surprisingly cooperative, but I found out later that they were promised extra lettuce, so I’m sure that was what motivated them to be so tractable.
Using live ducks is a great way for the students to practice handling and restraining birds without any injuries — to the birds OR the students! The mallards are pet ducks, so they are used to people, and they don’t have the super sharp beaks that many seabirds have. They are also–as you can see–extremely cute and personable!
After practicing their exam skills, the students put the ducks back in their carriers and worked on some seabird carcasses. They practiced exam skills, and also learned the techniques they would need to know for processing an oiled bird during a spill. Although dealing with carcasses is a lot less fun than dealing with living, quacking ducks, it is a great way to practice without worrying about the stress level of the patient. The students palpated different species and got a bit of an appreciation for the diversity of species that might be impacted by a spill.
We were really happy to have so many vet students give up half of their weekend for wildlife. Despite their intense class schedules and (what seems like) a million exams, these guys drove out to Fairfield early Sunday morning and spent the whole day with us, listening to lectures, asking questions, and learning some new skills. That’s pretty dedicated, considering that there won’t be an exam on anything we did!