With most of you being associated with the wildlife rehabilitation community, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Medical Database (WRMD) is probably very familiar. Its foundation came from Devin Dombrowski and Rachel Avilla while working at Lindsay Wildlife Museum. During this time, there was no standard database for wildlife rehabilitation. There were a few that existed but none that met the community’s needs as a whole, prompting some to build their own simple database as something that could get them by, but with no interoperability to other organizations.
“…it became clear to me, through my rehabilitation work and discussions with other wildlife rehabilitators, that there was a need for a proper database that any wildlife rehabilitator could use.” (Devin Dombrowski)
In 2013 the program went public, providing wildlife rehabilitators a database designed to meet their specific needs. Since then it has continued to grow, currently being used in 48 states in the US and 19 countries around the world. I (Duane) was thrilled to find it being used at Belize Bird Rescue (BBR) in Belize when I spent time there!
Some people (myself included), initially had difficulty moving away from paper-based records, but the advantages were so substantial that I knew it had to be done sooner rather than later. It not only allowed us to easily input, update and query patient data, but the fact that it automated those end-of-year reports to US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) was reward enough! Additionally important is that it allowed rehabilitation facilities to permit CDFW to access patient data, permitting identification of disease trends in real-time, and thus allowing for more timely action to address such trends.
For several years, Devin and Rachel have been working with OWCN to modify WRMD for use with oil spills, and this year, the Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Medical Database (OWRMD) made its big debut. So far, OWRMD has been used for two single-animal spills, and the recent Cuyama River Incident. The very first spill patient input was a Bell’s Sparrow. Cuyama was the first “big” test of the system, with patients including a Belted Kingfisher, Western Pond Turtles, Mallard ducks, Baja California Tree Frogs, California Red-legged Frogs and a Western Toad. This was a relatively small inland spill but 20 patients were a great christening for our new database program.
The basic use of the program is very similar to WRMD, with additional features that allow us to track our patients’ specific oil-treatment care during a spill event. It will provide us a detailed record of patients all the way from Recovery (communicating with the Wildlife Recovery App), through Field Stabilization, Transport, Processing, Pre-wash, Wash, Post-wash, Conditioning and Release. In the upcoming months you’ll be hearing and learning more about its use as it becomes an integral part of our patient data collection moving forward.
For each spill we will maintain an enormous amount of data such as initial exam information, morphometrics, types of treatments, final dispositions, release information and more. Similar to how WRMD stores valuable information that can be used to help more than just animals at a single facility, the data we can collect electronically through OWRMD will greatly enhance our ability to evaluate our protocols and continue to improve care for oil-affected animals.
The conversion is quite an involved undertaking and like all new programs will take some time to get accustomed to; however, just like the conversion from paper records to WRMD, the advantages are just too substantial to resist!