Indebted to this Network

I may not have known it at the time, but it turns out I was preparing to join the Oiled Wildlife Care Network many years ago. As a bright eyed, zealous marine biology major from UCLA, I jumped at early volunteer and internship opportunities to get my feet wet in an aspirational wildlife career. While I had great interest in all aspects of marine science and wildlife conservation, I was bitten by the charismatic megafauna bug and found myself drawn to the captivating world of marine mammals. This led me to an internship with the California Wildlife Center (CWC), helping them rescue stranded marine mammals from the Malibu coast, followed by yet another internship with the Aquarium of the Pacific (AOP) marine mammalogy department to work directly with their captive California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals and Southern sea otters (coincidentally, both CWC and AOP are current OWCN Member Organizations!)

Following my internships and a few great years at Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, I found myself working at another OWCN Member Organization, this time The Marine Mammal Center. Starting in the stranding department, I focused on coordinating the rescue efforts of stranded marine mammals (a much larger rescue range than the Malibu coast!). Surprisingly, my love for hands on work with marine mammals began to shift, as I found myself drawn to organization wide personnel coordination and operational logistics which led to me being hired as their first full time Volunteer Resources Manager. I spent the next few years immersed in an amazing community of over 1,200 dedicated volunteers and staff.

So when seven years ago an opportunity for a Wildlife Response Specialist popped up at the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at UC Davis, I couldn’t resist. I was blessed to join an industry leader in oiled wildlife spill response including a professional management team of amazing individuals paired with a Network of passionate, devoted and highly skilled Member Organizations. (Fun Fact: just after my interview, I was mobilized to the Refugio incident as a Volunteer Coordinator, while still at TMMC. I like to call it my slightly stressful working interview).

That is me in the white hat!

During my time at OWCN, my personal growth has exceeded my own expectations simply due to osmosis. I am surrounded by a Network filled with intelligent, driven, empathetic wildlife advocates who whole-heartedly believe our small actions today can drive monumental change. I am now disaster proficient in ICS lingo, understand the true value of collaboration (special shout out to our CDFW OSPR colleagues!), know more about PPE than I ever thought possible, and have assisted in the rescue of oiled CA native wildlife ranging in size from a tree frog to a brown pelican to a sea lion.

But through it all, I am often reminded that while the wildlife may have sparked my initial passion for this work, it is absolutely the people who have made it so special and unforgettable. I wish to thank each and every one of you for your positive influence, selfless contributions, and patient sharing of knowledge and expertise. The Oiled Wildlife Care Network, in my opinion, is the gold standard of community, coordination and cooperation.

If you made it this far (and endured this sappy blog), I hope I’ve adequately shared just a shred of my gratitude toward this amazing Network. I am sharing these thoughts today as I have accepted a new position as the Associate Director of Logistics with the California Veterinary Emergency Team (CVET) with the One Health Institute at UC Davis (starting later this month). I won’t be going too far physically, as OWCN also resides within the One Health Institute, but will be focused on this new emergency response program and thus no longer involved in daily OWCN operations.

I will miss my regular interactions with you all, but look forward to admiring OWCN’s inevitable advancement forward as you all continue doing your amazing work. Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of this Network.

Scott Buhl, Readiness Coordinator – Field Operations

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