2015: A Year to Remember

The OWCN and Wildlife Health Center made the top 10 stories for UC Davis for 2015. To learn more about these and other conservation related articles, check out these stories:

Top 10 stories from UC Davis in 2015
By Strategic Communications staff

What do foals, drought, hummingbirds and plastic all have in common? All are subjects of UC Davis’ top stories from 2015. Our staff looked at clicks and shares and had some lively debates to bring you a collection of the stories that had the biggest impact on campus and across the world throughout the year.


Wildlife experience high price of oil
Story by Kat Kerlin, video and photos by Joe Proudman

Members of the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network were in Alaska, attending a conference about the effects of oil on wildlife, when the real thing came pouring out of a ruptured pipeline in Santa Barbara County on May 19, 2015. As up to 100,000 gallons of thick, crude oil emptied along a 10-mile stretch of coast, OWCN Director Mike Ziccardi, who has experienced more than 50 spills in California and abroad, booked a red-eye flight from Anchorage to Santa Barbara. Once there, he assumed his post at the incident command center to help coordinate the wildlife response effort — a role that includes organizing the recovery, field stabilization, transport, rehabilitation and release of affected wildlife.

California network ready to respond: Typically, the number of birds far outweighs the number of marine mammals brought into the wildlife care facilities. In this spill, the ratio is much less distinct. “California is the best region in the world for oiled wildlife response,” Ziccardi said. “Through the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network, we have over 35 organizations we work with regularly. We train, do drills and exercises; we’ve built 12 facilities throughout the state for oiled wildlife. We have a system in place that is ready to hit the road should a spill like this occur anywhere in the state.”

That system burst into action in late May. Working with federal and state agencies, wildlife organizations and trained volunteers, recovery teams were deployed from the southern edge of San Luis Obispo County to Malibu, collecting, stabilizing and transporting wildlife.

Birds continue to be taken to the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center in San Pedro, while marine mammals are transported to a facility at SeaWorld San Diego. They are cleaned and rehabilitated at those facilities, with the hope of returning them to the wild after recovery. The information collected about each bird and mammal helps inform research on wildlife care for future spills, and helps scientists better understand the impact of this spill.


Photo: Two people in robes and masks cleaning a oil-covered pelican Photo: two people in robes and masks cleaning a oil-covered pelican. Photo by Joe Proudman

With the help of an assistant, Christine Fiorello, right, an Oiled Wild Life Care Network response veterinarian, cleans an oiled brown pelican at the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center in San Pedro.

More marine mammals than expected:

While the full extent of damage to wildlife remains unknown, this spill appears to be unique, according to marine biologist Kyra Mills-Parker, deputy director of field operations for the UC Davis OWCN. She said that typically, the number of birds far outweighs the number of marine mammals brought into the wildlife care facilities. In this spill, the ratio is much less distinct.

By June, the number of dead animals found during wildlife recovery efforts spiked. As of the evening of June 1, oiled wildlife responders had captured 220 animals, including both the dead and alive. That number includes 57 oiled birds, mostly brown pelicans, that were rescued and 80 birds collected dead. Thirty-eight marine mammals have been rescued — 32 California sea lions and six northern elephant seals — and 45 mammals were found dead, including nine dolphins and 36 California sea lions. Of the live captured animals, seven sea lions and eight birds died in care. Of those collected, 80 animals are still alive, and 140 are dead.

Keep calm, care for wildlife: The OWCN is managed by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center on behalf of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response. The network of more than 35 partner organizations is funded from a portion of a fee levied on the oil industry. OWCN partners include more than 2,000 trained people the network can tap to mobilize at a moment’s notice for emergencies like the oil spill in Santa Barbara County.

“Seeing animals injured or affected by oil spills is troubling,” Ziccardi said. “But you have to keep calm. By going out there, developing systems and the means to collect animals quickly, bring them into our centers and provide them the best care possible, it’s doing wonderful things for the animals. Especially animals that are affected due to our need for oil.”

Links to related video and original article:


Links to other wildlife conservation articles from 2015:

Hummingbird health: Appreciating the little things

For the past six years, Manfred Kusch, a UC Davis senior lecturer emeritus of French and comparative literature, has been opening his garden to the UC Davis Hummingbird Health and Conservation Program. The group, including the University of Wyoming, is the only collaborative program in the nation focused on hummingbird health and genetics.


Plastic for dinner: A quarter of fish sold at markets contain human-made debris

Roughly a quarter of the fish sampled from fish markets in California and Indonesia contained human-made debris — plastic or fibrous material — in their guts, according to a study from UC Davis and Hasanuddin University in Indonesia. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, is one of the first to directly link plastic and human-made debris to the fish on consumers’ dinner plates.


Rat poison at marijuana farms is killing increased numbers of rare forest mammals

The situation is growing worse for fishers being poisoned by rodenticides on illegal marijuana grow sites in California, according to a study by a team of researchers led by UC Davis and the Integral Ecology Research Center, based in Blue Lake. Fishers are midsized weasels.


Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2016 for all beings everywhere!


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