What Has Brown Done For The OWCN Lately?!?

For those of you who have attended Oilapalooza for several years now, you know that the OWCN has been working diligently on developing a medical records database that will capture electronically much of the basic information that we all collect during spills.

Imagine – field data that doesn’t have to be entered on the bird box, the beach search effort, the field stabilization form, the Live Animal Log, and the Intake sheet! Paradise you might say – and I would agree! Even better, for those of us who have played “Bird Record Bingo” with the records late at night during large spills to collate and reconcile the data so that wash lists, pre-wash exam lists, pre-release evaluations can be done at the earliest opportunity. Ah, it brings a small tear to my eye just thinking of it!

Well, in order to try and make this happen, the OWCN has been working for a long, long time on different iterations of just such a system (and as the resident Ol’ Timer on this, I have files and versions dating back to 1998 discussing this very issue). The most recent exciting evolution of this has been partnering with UPS (yes, Big Brown) on the modification of their TrackPad system, used for tracking packages throughout the world, to track birds (and their data) through the facility. This system will use a combination of handheld PCs and laptop computers, all connected to both a local server and a remote server at UC Davis, to capture the basic info we need to move animals through to system. Ideally, this will also include the integration of bar codes on bands, on cages/pools and on examiners so that those basic data can be quickly and effectively collected with few errors.

On the data analysis side, this system would (and will) be coupled with custom reports so that, at the push of a button, we can have bird wash lists generated based on pre-established criteria, medical records available to review, and the animal number so urgently needed by the Unified Command available on a near-real-time capability.

All this sounds great, you say. Well, where is it?!? Well, we have had a number of hurdles to go over – some more challenging than others (Deepwater Horizon, loss of key OWCN staff), some more technical in nature (the OWCN Director needing to learn server technology) and some simply due to the lack of time from all parties involved. However, in the last several months, due largely to the persistence of Emily and the availability of Mike Dutra (our UPS lead contact), we are making great strides in moving forward. We actually have a system ready to be “alpha-tested”, looking at entering the data from each of the facility areas and ensuring this information is correctly transferred to the servers. Once that is done, we will be ready to work directly with our other rehabilitation partners to ensure the information captured is done in the most effective manner.

So, while it isn’t ready for the official unveiling quite yet, I am ecstatic about our most recent progress. Hopefully, at the next Oilapalooza, we will have more than just pretty pictures to show – maybe we can have wet labs on how to run the system! Stay tuned!

– Mike

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