And the next Oilapalooza will be – wait for it…

Scott, Greg, and I are on our way back from the latest Basic Responder Training at the Marine Wildlife Care Center, located on Humboldt State University’s campus in Arcata. The last time I was in Arcata was nearly 20 years ago for the predecessor of the BRT, which was called Advanced Supervisors Training. Interestingly, this was the first time I met Greg. We only know this because of photographic evidence – neither of us actually remembers meeting each other, but we have actually known each since 2001, not 2010.

The Basic Responder Training brought in members from Shasta Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, Humboldt State University, and a strong showing from Bird Ally X @ Humboldt Wildlife Care Center. We actually have a lot of Network members in this region. We had the chance to visit the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center and check out the new location of the Institute for Wildlife Studies – one of our hazing and collection Network members that is also based in Arcata.

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I forgot just how much is happening in this area, and just how beautiful it is. The drive up through the redwoods was stunning. We arrived early the day before the BRT, which gave us plenty of time to check out the incredible facilities of our hotel – the Best Western Plus, Humboldt Bay Inn located in Eureka – which has a solarium with a pool table, a swimming-pool-sized hot tub with a waterfall, and tikki bar with fire pits. Just a couple blocks away is old town Eureka, which has an incredible food Co-op and a lot of great restaurants.

You may be wondering right about now why I’m rambling about hotels and towns in this distant refuge behind the redwood curtain. That’s because this is where we’ll be hosting the next Oilapalooza, this October 16-17th!!! With the improved highways and direct flights from LA, access to this beautiful destination will be much easier for all of our member organizations.

As if the Network partners, natural beauty, and incredible wildlife (not to mention the spill history) of this region weren’t enough, we’ve already started planning for some incredible workshops, lectures, and hands-on experiences. Stay tuned for more on that. For now, save the date: October 16-17th2019. Additional information and registration details coming soon.

oilapalooza is coming

Hope to see some of you in Humboldt County!!

~ Danene

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Danene Birtell – OWCN Readiness Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Bone Barn Bash

Bright and early last Friday morning a group of us gathered at the Bone Barn with our “good morning attitudes” and coffee in hand. The “Bone Barn” (or Bone Yard – we use them interchangeably), is what we call the location just off campus where we store all our response equipment, from trailers and Tyvek to tents and nets.

With the heaters on full blast, we came up with a game plan to re-organize the barn to further enhance its ease of use and transform it into an even more aesthetically pleasing space. First on the docket, reorganizing the carriers. We went through each one individually, ensured that it was in good condition, and tossed the ones that were no longer durable. We then created four different sets of “nesting” carriers that contained one size of each carrier (mini, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, and 700). These we placed back on the shelf where they are easily accessible, when the disaster strikes! The rest of the plastic carriers were stacked and placed inside the metal ones for extra space saving consolidation.

We then set our sights on inventorying and organizing our Tyvek stash, ensuring all the boxes were in tip top condition, noting expiration dates, and recording what sizes need to be restocked. Next up, were the traps! The fact that they are all different sizes, types, and shapes made it a bit tricky. However, Scott did an excellent job with his tetris skills to get them to all fit neatly in one spot together! By early afternoon we had an entire section of shelves reworked, the traps organized and strapped together, and stomachs that were ready for lunch! As we admired our work and helped ourselves to Wendy’s delicious homemade cupcakes, we were ready to call it a day.

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–Jennie

New Year…New Website!

As we approach the close of 2018 and welcome 2019 we want to extend our sincere thanks for an amazing year. We look forward to a prosperous New Year filled with many trainings, conferences, a full-deployment drill, and many other opportunities to interact with you, our community. In the meantime, we invite you to explore our new website.

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Happy Holidays to you all and wishing you a joyous New Year!

 

~The OWCN Management Team

OWCN @ State Scientist Day

A few of us OWCN’ers (Tim, Nancy and myself) had a great time educating a few thousand students from area grade schools at the 2017 State Scientist Day held at the State Capitol in Sacramento and hosted by the California Association of Professional Scientists. (more info and pictures here)

It served as a great opportunity for us to set up a few of our educational outreach activities including our ‘blubber glove’ experiment, feather examination station (with magnifying glasses and microscopes), and our go to classic…sea otter pelts. IMG_0809IMG_0808

 

 

 

 

 

While the kids were definitely very excited to be out of the classroom for the day, I believe we were able to grasp the attention of many and teach them a few fun facts about our amazing California wildlife.  Informal education, especially in a setting like this, can be surprisingly tiring, but equally gratifying, as the raw enthusiasm and hunger for information that these kids bring undoubtedly rubs off on you.  In a time where the value of science may be questioned, these children provided a reassuring reminder that the scientific search for answers is priceless!

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-Scott

 

Counting Penguins for Science

I discovered a love for citizen science projects a few years ago, when a friend got me hooked on Snapshot Serengeti. After creating an account on their website, I had the chance to click through trail cam photos from a national park and conservation area in Tanzania. My goal was to find, identify, and count the animals captured in those photos to help with a population survey and create the dataset that would support many studies–from how and where animals move and cluster in the park, to how that changes over time.

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Snapshot Serengeti features many amazing captures, like this one, on their blog.

As bored grad students know, many trail cam captures are duds, when the camera is triggered by swaying grass or other non-animal movement. But every few photos I’d catch a glimpse of Tanzanian wildlife in their natural environment: elephants, antelope, lions, and so many more. Oh, and wildebeests. So many, many wildebeests.   I don’t remember much of that weekend, it is lost in a fog of wildebeests and concentration, but I do know I was on a mission to find and identify my very own aardwolf capture.

Since that weekend, I’ve come to love and support many crowd-sourced science projects (many of which I discovered through Zooniverse, a platform for participants and researchers interested in crowd-sourced data collection projects. Scientific American also keeps a running list of projects). You can spy on penguins, characterize bat calls, and map the hills of Mars. You can measure hurricanes, track snow cover, and transcribe nautical logs to advance our understanding of our weather and climate. You can participate in amazing and important things.

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Penguin Watch is a currently running project similar to Snapshot Serengeti.

In this age when science is so often viewed as opaque, dated, scary, or irrelevant, citizen science gives me great hope. We need skilled science communicators, and there are many people out there doing great work–including organizations and individuals right here in the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. But citizen science goes one step further. In addition to providing another way to learn about how science is conducted, it actually asks people to participate and invest in real, current research projects. Making science so accessible and allowing volunteers to have such an important role in data collection lets people from all walks of life experience what scientists already know: how great science is, and how exciting it can be to contribute to humanity’s collective knowledge.

So check it out! And then get everyone you know to check it out too.

You won’t be sorry you did.

Steph

Creatures Great and Small

As many of you are probably aware, the OWCN was activated this past weekend to respond to the Grove Incident Oil Spill in Ventura County.  Thanks to the quick work of early responders, the oil was contained before it could reach the ocean.  However, a stretch of dry gorge was contaminated, and cleanup efforts – including wildlife deterrence and searches by OWCN responders – are now underway.  You can get more information on the spill and response efforts from the Cal Spill Watch page, just click here.

I won’t steal Field Operations’s thunder – Hazing and Recovery have been doing an amazing job and I look forward to hearing more about their efforts in the near future! I’m sure we’ll all be discussing and learning from this early inland response over the coming months as well.

That said, I find it interesting to think about the types of animals that have been collected so far: wood rats, a gopher snake, a raccoon, and a rabbit.  (Unfortunately only one of these animals was collected alive; the collection of deceased animals from a spill zone is important for a number of reasons, including to reduce the attractiveness of the area to scavengers and to help with Natural Resource Damage Assessment).  

None of these species are highly visible or “charismatic”.  But they’re the type of animals we’re likely to encounter often in inland spill response – rodents, other small mammals, small reptiles, and in soggier habitats, amphibians too.  They’re easy to overlook and take for granted, and they’re not flashy like whales and mountain lions and albatrosses, but they each fill an important place in the ecosystem.

And that’s our mission – to provide the best achievable capture and care to oil-affected wildlife, great or small.  To meet that goal, we’ve got to get to know them all.  I know I’ve certainly got a lot to learn – probably enough to fill a lifetime.

But that’s OK with me.  One of my favorite things is how easy it is to be surprised when it comes to animals.  Just by taking a closer look at a species’ natural history, even a species you thought was boring or mundane, you can find fascinating things.

For example, let’s take the lowly woodrat.  Did you know that woodrats are also commonly known as packrats, and are usually not particularly pesky to people – unlike their invasive cousins, the Norway and black rats – except when they set up their nests in inconvenient locations or steal shiny things to line those nests with?  They drum their hind feet when alarmed, Desert Woodrats are scary good at navigating cacti without injuring themselves, and Stephens’s Woodrats eat a great deal of juniper but don’t seem to be affected by the chemical compounds that make the plant indigestible to most other mammals.

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It doesn’t end there!  Nests (aka middens) can be used by successive generations of woodrats, each building onto what the last generation left behind.  Fossilized middens provide an invaluable source of information to scientists looking to understand historical biomes and ecosystems.

I’ll admit that I have a soft spots for rodents (that’s what you get when you’re raised by a squirrel rehabilitator) but still!  I find it impossible to investigate a species without finding something interesting along the way.  So I invite you to join me in my quest to get to know all of California’s wildlife.  If you find anything particularly cool, let me know in the comments below, and I’ll see if can dig up some interesting facts to share in some future post.

Take care until next time!

Steph

Summer is here!

While the official launch of summer (June 20th) is still a few weeks away, it sure feels like summer weather here in Davis!  And amidst the early heat, one of my projects has been tending to our fleet of boats to ensure they are prepped and ready to be deployed for spill response, if needed.

Which prompted this blog post…did you know that the OWCN has a fleet of 3 boats of various size and ability located at UC Davis that can be used for spill response?  If not, please let me introduce you to our floating resources:

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Type: Zodiac MK II C HD
Length: 12′ 6″
Nickname: The Purring Murre
Description: This compact inflatable is a great resource that can be towed behind the Wildlife Recovery Sprinter van so can often be one of the first options on scene.  It can even ride in the Sprinter or other vehicle as it folds up into a nice little bundle.  Because of its relatively small size, it can easily be launched from a beach or dock, and is maneuverable in narrow or relatively shallow waters.

345617_p_t_640x480_image03Type: Gregor H-22
Length: 12′ 2″
Nickname: The Hazing Boat
Description: This durable vessel provides us with a secondary compact option and, even though its original purpose is for hazing, it could be used for wildlife recovery as well.

 

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Type: Alumaweld Super Vee
Length: 19′ 0″
Nickname: The Screaming Grebe
Description:  This is the racehorse of the fleet, as it is our longest boat and has a 115hp four stroke outboard engine.

So there you have it.  But rest assured that if a spill response requires an on-water response, these vessels will be a great resource for going out to capture wildlife or for use in hazing.

Not sure about you…but all this talk about boats and hot weather is making me daydream of spending the day floating on the nearest lake.  However you choose to spend it, enjoy the beautiful weekend!

Scott