Since my last blog in August, our field ops group (Kyra, Scott and me) has continued to be busy with the continuous work of preparing different equipment and techniques for future inland spills, while retaining our readiness for marine spills. Part of the marine side has been working with Greg Frankfurter on researching marine mammal hazing strategies and equipment. On the inland side, more equipment has been purchased for both hazing and capture of a wider array of species.
In addition, we are steadily looking at ways to have well integrated field operations with both hazing and recovery capabilities in as many teams as possible. We have outfitted a total of 6 field ops trailers with gear for both hazing and recovery so that field teams have as much flexibility as possible and have the ability to fill hazing or recovery roles as needed. These trailers are stationed around the state: Arcata, Alturas, Oroville, Davis, Bakersfield, and Irvine.
During the Wildlife Planning Summit held in mid-October, new ideas emerged relating to field ops, and that generation of ideas and feedback from the Member Orgs is exactly what we had hoped would come out of the Summit. All input was greatly appreciated and we look forward to working with the various working groups over the next year on the various ideas that were brought up at the Summit.
Last week I was in Irvine and this week I will be in Davis, conducting two specialized trainings of OWCN / Wildlife Health Center staff and Institute for Wildlife Studies (IWS) personnel in pyrotechnic deployment for hazing. I am doing these trainings as mini-drills to make sure that our thought processes are wide and that everyone is familiar with and thinking about all the tools available, not just pyrotechnics. Strategies will obviously be different for both hazing and capture depending on the specifics of a given spill, so it is important that we practice thinking through the different scenarios.
Because we need to operate under the University of California regulations, they limit the personnel who can directly handle and deploy pyrotechnics, so this particular hazing training is not offered widely to all members of the Network at this time. However, having other people within the Network that are familiar with non-pyrotechnic hazing tools and able to assist with other tasks, including pyrotechnic deployment, is still important.
One exciting thing about the upcoming training this week is that it will also include an IWS drone demonstration of drone capabilities for use within field response. This is not your typical toy drone, rather it’s a 50 lb super fancy drone, with about a 4 ft wing span. Not only does it have an infrared camera (to be able to spot wildlife at night), but it has a Global Positioning System (GPS) that can fly itself back to the pilot, a tracker (in case it goes down in a remote location), as well as a myriad of other cool features. We will report more on this in a future blog. Stay tuned!