13th EOW in B’more

The number 13 turned out to be lucky for the 2018 Effects of Oil on Wildlife Conference earlier this month in Baltimore, MD or B’more as the hometown of John Waters, Divine and the Baltimore Orioles is affectionately known. For one thing, no one was called away to respond to an oil spill. This iteration was widely considered to be one the best, going all the way back to the initial Effects of Oil on Birds Symposium which convened in 1982 about 100 miles east as the oiled bird flies.  The conference was presented by Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research and OWCN and hosted by the National Aquarium but the success was the result of the hard work of a big flock of people including all the speakers, moderators, workshop instructors, volunteers, committee members and sponsors.

A few of the highlights for me included Gary Shigenaka of NOAA and his History of Oil Spills, an updating of Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research on-going testing of products of the removal of oil from feathers, case studies involving polyisobutylene on birds, and a presentation on managing compassion fatigue and burnout during an oiled wildlife response. Of course, there was also many opportunities between presentations to ask more questions, meet new colleagues and reconnect with old ones at the icebreaker, the beer tasting, the poster session/reception and the banquet which was held at the National Aquarium.

The conference closed with a panel discussion moderated by OWCN’s own Dr. Mike Ziccardi and included 4 representatives with an depth of experience in oiled wildlife response and a breadth of international perspective spanning industry, government agencies and NGO’s.Closing panel before They answered questions on a number of topics regarding the achievements and challenges going forward for oiled wildlife response and those of us who have chosen it as a profession. And then as Steve Jobs would say “one more thing”  as two post-conference activities were available for those who were not quite ready to say goodbye, a birding trip and a sea turtle and pinniped workshop. I can only report on the workshop. I thought it was all great but the photos will let you judge for yourself. I am already looking forward to the yet to be scheduled 14thEffects of Oil on Wildlife

 

Hope to see you there!

 

Curt

What We Don’t Know… Yet

This week is a week of meetings for the OWCN Management Team. Today, I spent the day sitting in on the OWCN’s Scientific Advisory Committee meeting. Tomorrow, I’ll spend the day at our Advisory Board meeting.  Meetings aren’t usually my favorite way to pass the time, but I’m always excited to see these two on the calendar.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with these groups, the Advisory Board provides expertise, leadership, and guidance for the administration of the program overall, while the Scientific Advisory Committee evaluates and makes recommendations regarding the OWCN’s Research and Competitive Grants Program.

feather testingIt’s the Scientific Advisory Committee that is particularly fun to sit in on, because this is where knowledgeable and committed scientists from all sorts of backgrounds gather to review the year’s grant applications. There’s always lively discussion about each proposal, and listening to really smart people passionately discuss complex topics is something I’ve always enjoyed. But more than that, I am fascinated by the glimpse the research proposals give me into the future of oiled wildlife response.

Research is based on questions, and there are an awful lot of questions we don’t have good answers to in wildlife rehabilitation and oiled wildlife response. What does oil actually do to this species, and how can we best help the animal to recover? Is this diet actually the best one for this species and situation? Can we find and help oiled animals faster if we use new technology like drones? Is there a better way of treating or preventing care-related complications, like Aspergillus respiratory infections?

COMU eye examsExperience and adaptive husbandry have their place, but there’s nothing like a well-designed study to help us understand what we do and don’t really know about a topic – which is why OWCN strives to not only base our protocols and procedures on the best science available, but also to seek out and fund projects that will deepen our collective understanding of the issues around oiled wildlife response. Constant development and improvement is core to our mission and organizational identity, and the scientific advancement of the oiled wildlife response field is a fundamental component of that process.

Tomorrow, the Advisory Board will review the Scientific Advisory Committee’s recommendations and will vote on whether or not to fund this year’s grant proposals. I’m excited to see what the final decisions are, but even more excited to see what grows out of the grant and research program – this year, and in the future.

Take care,

Steph

Cross Training – OWCN Style!

As we’ve reported here over the past couple years, the OWCN has a mandate to increase readiness for inland oiled wildlife response. We’ve been doing this through drills, mobile facility infrastructure development, and expansion of our network to include responders and centers that are experienced with inland species.

One of the great things about the OWCN is the strength of this expanding network. It not only improves our ability to respond, but gives everyone a chance to learn from each other. While I helped teach the Basic Responder Trainings over the past few months, it was great to see how much value the variety of responders brings to the trainings. I think we all walk away learning something new – either something about a species we’ve never worked with, or a different technique for working with an animal. Interactions like this led to our new Oilapalooza lab series.

This year, this new series will provide cross-training opportunities for everyone through a series of afternoon “101” laboratories. This includes: Pelagic Bird 101, Pinniped 101, Raptor 101, Reptile and Amphibian 101, Sea Otter 101, Sea Turtle 101, Terrestrial Mammal 101, and Terrestrial Bird (non-raptor) 101. We feel this will be a great opportunity for attendees to learn how to work with a new species. If you’re not going to Oilapalooza, think about other cross-training opportunities – maybe attend trainings at other centers, or just get to know rehabbers from other organizations in your area. You never know where the next spill will occur, but you can do your best to prepare for it!

-Greg

Wildlife Rehab’s Bright Future

At the beginning of March, I spent an excellent week in Williamsburg, Virginia at the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association Symposium.  The NWRA Symposium is a national conference for wildlife rehabilitators; with an extensive roster of daily talks, workshops, and social events. Attendees include agency representatives, veterinarians, and lots and lots of rehabilitators. There are home rehabilitators and center rehabilitators, paid and volunteer, single species and multispecies. Some attendees have been working in the field for decades upon decades, and some are preparing to apply for their very first rehabilitation permit.

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I brought a friend back! This is Opus, my new desk mascot.

Of course, it is always amazing to see friends and colleagues from all across the country–especially since it’s been years since some of us have run into each other.  And I love meeting and helping other rehabilitators by teaching in the lectures and labs, not to mention having a chance to learn from others’ experiences and grow my own skills.

But this year my favorite thing was the program of speakers. It seems like the programming has gotten better and better over the 10 years that I’ve been attending the NWRA symposium (my first was 2008 in Cherry Hill, NJ–woot woot!).  This year especially, I was struck by the knowledge and professionalism represented by the speakers.  I know a ton of work went into the symposium (as is always true), and that really showed.  I also think it reflects on how wildlife rehabilitation has grown and matured over the years, and hopefully this is just a glimpse of where we’re headed.

As a group, wildlife rehabilitators are already making a difference all over the world. But we’re also finding ways to move forward, by bringing new science to light, finding new ways to apply natural history to our care protocols, and incorporating solid ethics into our programs. With every step we take, we’re able to help more animals, and do a better job of it too.

I left Williamsburg full of hope and pride. I still see the long path in front of us–never be satisfied, right?–but I also see how far we’ve come. It gives me confidence that we’ll keep moving in the right direction, no matter what else is going on in the world.  I’m really excited to be looking forward into that future alongside so many exceptional wildlife rehabilitators, many right here on the West Coast.

I hear that next year’s Symposium will be in California’s very own Orange County–if you have the chance to go, I think you’ll find it a fun and educational time!

Take care,

Steph

skimmer

This new Rosemary Mosco comic came out in March, and since I love black skimmers and all their tiny-legged weirdness, I just had to share 🙂

Jackalope spotted in Quincy Drill! Film at 11

When you are an oiled wildlife responder, people often ask what you do between spills – like they assume you are watching old episodes of the Simpsons or reading War and Peace because you have nothing else to do. I expect firemen or EMTs get the same sorts of questions and I am sure they too at least chuckle to themselves and perhaps can’t suppress a minor eye roll. I can only speak for the responders on the OWCN Management Team at the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center within the One Health Institute at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, but we manage to keep pretty busy and it seems like I am way behind on my reading of the great books.

March has been especially busy. Last week we had meetings of the OWCN Scientific Advisory Committee as well as the OWCN Advisory Board. This week started with our annual OWCN Full Deployment Drill and will end with the Annual Meeting of the One Health Institute. We have a lot going on. Too much to cover in one blog so I will just tell you about one of these events the Full Deployment Drill and leave the others for a future blogger to report on.

On the road to Quincy

On the road to Quincy

The OWCN Full Deployment Drill occurs every year. It is a “peacetime” way that evaluates our readiness to respond when animals are impacted by oil spills in California. Each year responders from many (often more than half) of our Member Organizations participate on the ground. Last year it took place in Morro Bay and this year in Quincy – tucked in a beautiful valley up in the Sierras halfway between Reno and Redding. They are opposites in many ways, but both are fairly quiet this time of the year and each offers unique challenges for a drill. We chose Quincy because it is right next to one of the five areas designated by OSPR as high risk for a spill involving oil by rail in California, and it is a perfect place to identify some of the challenges that inland response will hold for California and the OWCN. We have spent considerable time planning for inland response but this was our first live drill since we were given that responsibility. To maximize the value, we decided to hold an Open House on Monday the day before the actual drill. Our aim was to provide Quincy with a sense of both what we do as well as how it might play out in their community. That added a bit of pressure as we had to travel to Quincy and get everything set up by 4 pm, but great team effort from the OWCN Management Team and participants from many of the Member Organizations got everything in place in the nick of time.

set up Quincy

Facility Set Up at the Fairgrounds

The time pressure from the Open House also gave us new insight into just how much “people-power” will be required to get our five Western Shelter tents and all of our equipment up and running when we are deployed for a spill.  If we already have animals that need care when we arrive, that will definitely be challenging.

OWCN Sprinter & Hazing Trailer

OWCN Sprinter & Hazing Trailer

The drill itself took considerable planning, with Mike Ziccardi leading the development of the scenario with lots of help from OSPR personnel familiar with the area to help make it realistic. The Wildlife Recovery and Hazing Groups set up with the Sprinter and the Hazing Trailer at the Spanish Creek Campground – close to to the “scene” of the “release”. Field Stabilization was 10 minutes away at Hough Ranger Station, which was still about 10 minutes from the Primary Care Facility established at the Plumas County Fairgrounds.

While we don’t use live animals in the drill, we did have more than just our imagination. Stuffed animals, each with cards bearing information about their condition, were captured, transported, processed, and examined. Later some of them went through the cleaning and conditioning processes, so participants in each area were challenged to think about how they would handle a variety of inland species including river otters, bald eagles, giant garter snakes, beaver, skunks, and many more. We tested our still developing digital record keeping system using the Wildlife Recovery iPhone app and OWRMD, and found that although while many people talk about internet everywhere, there are still some places that have spotty or NO SERVICE.

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Otter Exam

When the drill wrapped up mid-afternoon, we all gathered to share lessons learned. We talked about the internet problems, the challenges of working in tents compared to the roomy purpose-built centers we have along the coast from San Diego to Arcata. We talked about the challenges of the weather and evaluated some of our new inland species equipment and what we still need to acquire. But the thing that stood out the most was that, despite the rain, wind and pretend animals whose lives were not really in danger, everyone played their role with all their heart, taking it all seriously but with a smile on their faces, working together to make California better prepared in the case of an inland spill.

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Lessons learned

 

Oh, and did I mention there was even a jackalope?  Well, maybe that was not so realistic.
Everyone knows they don’t occur west of the Sierras.

-Curt

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Jackalope

The Descent is Always the Trickiest!

As Chris and Scott noted in the last two blogs, OWCN held the first Oiled Wildlife Planning Summit in Davis Oct 14 & 15. Although no one really knew what would happen, everyone showed up ready to participate, share their opinions about the the strengths and weaknesses of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, and brainstorm and propose ideas on how we can improve it. We discussed how to make activation of the wildlife facilities used in an oil spill response smoother, make responses greener, clarify use of protocols, provide better first response, build our skills for inland species, and untangle the web that is chain of custody. chain-of-custody-summit-10-16img_0835

It was a day that truly reflected the founding vision of OWCN as a group of energetic, dedicated, and creative organizations and the individuals that make up those groups. It was a meeting of people who are leaders – in their thoughts, their organizations, their communities, and their actions.

But the true measure of the success of the Summit will not be clear for months. The true danger of climbing a summit, after all, is often on the descent, when you are taking pride in your accomplishment and not focused on making it home safely.

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Conquering the summit will not be finished until the conceptualized products our discussions are complete, after many hours of toil by the members of each workgroup. However, we have full confidence that success will occur, based on two primary things: because I know the strong dedication and high work ethic of nearly every person involved, and because I know the history of oiled wildlife response and wildlife rehabilitation here in the Golden State.  As someone born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, it sometimes pains me to admit that California holds a very unique position within the profession and community of oil spill response. It is a leader and has been since before some of us were putting gas at 25 cents a gallon into our cars.  One reason is because the oil industry generates a huge amount of money by extraction, transport, and refining and selling petroleum products here. Another is because of the depth and breadth of the natural wonders in California and the passion that they elicit in people to protect and defend them. That combination has lead to a state that literally puts it money where its mouth (and its heart) is.

And this fact is not just because of money generated by taxes on oil. Long before the Exxon Valdez and American Trader oil spills that sparked the legislation that would require oiled wildlife response as part of the clean up, the public and the wildlife rehabilitation community in California were doing their best to rescue and rehabilitate oiled wildlife as well as other injured and orphaned wildlife that were found every day of the year. Organizations like Lindsay Wildlife Museum, Monterey SPCA, Peninsula Humane Society, and of course International Bird Rescue Research Center all were caring for oiled wildlife during the 70’s and 80’s. If California was not the birth place of wildlife rehabilitation and oiled wildlife response, it was surely the nursery where it grew from diapers to overalls, scrubs, and lab coats. Events like this year’s OWCN Oiled Wildlife Planning Summit, past year’s Oilapaloozas and the just concluded Symposium of California Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators (which was held last weekend in Fresno) prove the strong belief in environmental responsibility and stewardship and willingness of divergent people coming together to strengthen and improve that stewardship.  These kinds of events never fail to energize and inspire as well as remind me how thankful I am to have the opportunity to learn from and work with all of you who are so dedicated to mitigating our impacts and making the world a better place for humans and non-humans living in this state and on this planet. I am confident you will all make sure we remain leaders in our field. Stay tuned for the progress reports over the coming year.

Curt

Slaking our thirst for knowledge

 

Roomates at NWRA

Last time, Scott talked about the OWCN membership, member engagement and the responsibility of those of us in Davis to support and engage the other members. It was an important point for each of us to remember. We all become better at what we do when we can learn from each other’s experience and we can best do that when we directly engage with each other. Ideally with a cold drink!

Recently Stephanie Herman and I had the opportunity to attend the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association’s (NWRA) annual symposium in Norman, Oklahoma. The NWRA annual gathering is the meeting of rehabilitators anywhere in the world and while most of the attendees are from North America each one also includes a handful of people from other countries such as Canada, Australia, India, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, etc. It is 5 very full days of lectures, labs, workshops, roundtables and tours on everything from “Baby Bird Basics” and “Diarrhea in Cottontail Rabbits” to “Polypropylene Mesh Implantation for Radioulnar Synostosis in Raptors”, literally something for everyone, from the novice rehabilitator to the wildlife veterinarian. It is also a chance to network with long time colleagues and catch up with old friends and meet tomorrows leaders in a rapidly changing and advancing field.

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While it is often hard to find the time or money when you work in the non-profit world, I have managed to attend many of these conferences over the last 20 years, but they never get old. There are always new topics and new teachers and new takes on something you thought you already knew all about. Every presentation contains a nugget for the curious with a thirst for knowledge and everyone involved is more than willing to share what they have learned and why it is important. OWCN member organizations such as International Bird Rescue, Lindsey Wildlife Experience, Bird AllyX, Monterey SPCA, Peninsula Humane Society and others are regularly among the presenters as well the audience.

Our goal of best achievable care is an elusive one. As in Zeno’s Achilles Paradox, it keeps moving away as we approach, so that when we get to where it was yesterday, it has moved further down the path. All of us must keep moving, learning, and improving if we want to avoid falling farther behind than we already are. In the last year the OWCN has provided support to give all OWCN members (affiliated individuals and organizations, as well as others around the world) opportunities to continue to grow as responders and rehabilitators. This has been through our training programs, our outreach/engagement activities, and through a wide variety of meetings of colleagues at NWRA, the California Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators Conference, the Pacific Seabird Group, the World Seabird Group, the Effects of Oil On Wildlife Conference, just to name a few.

I hope you had a chance to participate in one or more of these events. If so, I hope you came away with new knowledge and an increased commitment to chasing best achievable care in both response as well as your day-to-day efforts in your organization. I know I did.

-Curt