Hello, Emily here. I’m writing from the road as I spend a couple of weeks traveling in California. This week, Christine, Tim, Nancy, Megan (a UCD 4th year vet student extern), and I have had the pleasure and the privilege of helping with the initial efforts of a research project on sea otters in southern California. The project is a collaboration among biologists, veterinarians, and researchers from the US Geological Survey, CA Department of Fish and Game, Monterey Bay Aquarium, University of Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara Zoo, and others. Researchers are working here to understand the life of an otter at the southern extent of the range. For a few pictures of our work, you can visit OSPR’s Facebook site.
Next week, I’m headed to the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center in San Pedro to work with International Bird Rescue. Winter weather often brings oil to the surface of the ocean especially in southern California, and this year is no different. Over the past week, we’ve seen tarballs and oil patties on the beaches and in the water, likely from these seeps. A large number of birds, especially common murres, have been affected by natural seep oil over the past few months. OWCN Member Organizations work hard to rehabilitate these animals and return them to the ocean. They also report them to the OWCN so that we can monitor trends in space and time. Feather samples can be analyzed by the California Department of Fish and Game’s Petroleum Chemistry lab to determine the source, and if the oil is determined to be from an anthropogenic source, rather than a natural seep, the OWCN is activated to respond. The OWCN is not activated for animals affected by natural seeps; instead, we work to support our Member Organizations by helping to offset costs and by providing our time. I’m looking forward to my time at LAOBCEC next week – it will be a fantastic learning opportunity for me, and I’m eager to help out. For some more information about natural seep oil, check out this site by USGS.