I receive questions from volunteers every so often, asking why, as a bird volunteer, they need to take the marine mammal webinars, or as a marine mammal volunteer, they need to take the bird webinars. Additionally, I receive questions such as, “I would only work in the facility during a spill, so do I really need to watch the Recovery and Transportation webinar?” Up front, it may seem as if there isn’t any point to spending our valuable time investing in learning about an animal we won’t ever work with, or a task we won’t ever preform. However, there are several reasons why we ask our pre-volunteers to view our entire core webinar series, instead of just the ones they are interested in.
First, an oil spill response is not just an individual task, but also a whole process. By learning about wildlife response from the time the animal is picked up off of the beach, to when it is released, you are gaining valuable knowledge. For example, let’s say you are on a Recovery and Transportation team responding to a spill, and you are asked to give an interview for a local news station covering the event. They may ask you what the OWCN is, where will the animal go once you take it, what will happen to it there, and how will you know when it is ready to be released back to the wild. By educating yourself, you are able to accurately educate others.
Second, by cross training, you increase your value as a volunteer. We know that at most spills birds are usually the most abundant oil-affected animals. If you are a marine mammal volunteer, but you have taken all of the webinars, then you have prepared yourself to be knowledgeable in avian spill response. So when you get a call that we need volunteers to come in and help with birds, you’ll be ready.
Cross training for all aspects of spill response helps our pre-trained volunteers to be both prepared and well informed. In return, this provides the response with the best possible volunteers to provide the best achievable capture and care of oiled wildlife, which as always, is our primary purpose.