Come and Gone!

And so, just like that, Oilapalooza 2015 has come and gone.  This year’s Oilapalooza drew a record crowd of more than 170 participants from 35 member organizations and affiliated agencies!  Wow!  It was wonderful to see all of you again, to meet new people, and to welcome new member organizations into the network.  Thanks to everyone for making it such a fun and successful Oilapalooza, and thank you for deciding to spend your weekend with us.


GREAT Turnout for Saturday Lectures!

Fun was not in short supply: Saturday was a day full of interesting talks, including several Refugio talks, one about the OSPR and OWCN inland expansion, a couple talks about the new and upcoming electronic data collection for recovery and care, among others. We also had most of the member organizations and agencies give a brief overview of any news they wanted to share.  It is always enlightening to hear what groups have been up to (this year the answer to that question is MURRES…and lots of them!).

We ended the day with a reception and raffle at the hotel in Emeryville. Sunday was another exciting day, with 13 different workshops to choose from! They all took place at the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Fairfield. We had people blowing up wavy men (as one potential hazing technique), learning how to capture inland species, practicing how to place a wing wrap on a bird, and getting to open up marine mammals and birds during the necropsy workshops.

Workshop Folks Learning About Visual Hazing Methods on Sunday

Workshop Folks Learning About Visual Hazing Methods on Sunday

Oilapalooza is not only fun for learning new skills and hearing about new research, but it is tremendously valuable for coming together as a network. Just like each branch of a tree gives the tree its collective strength, so does each individual from each member organization and affiliated agency, in making the OWCN the best oil spill response network in the world.

I know I speak for all core OWCN staff in saying that we are so grateful for each and every one of you, and your contribution in making the OWCN amazing. See you next time.

– Kyra

Oilapalooza Is A Go!

date-clipart-putthis_on_calendar_clip_art1Save the date!

After weeks/months of exploring different venues, having hotels refuse to get back to us, and more (non-financially induced) potholes in the process than any year to date, Lavonne has pulled a rabbit of the hat and found us a site for Oilapalooza ’15!

EmeryvilleWe will be convening on Saturday October 17 at the Hilton Garden Inn San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge (1800 Powell Street, Emeryville, CA) for a day of continuing education, directed discussion, and team-building activities. The following day, focused labs on each of our response streams (recovery, hazing, field stabilization, and care/processing) will take place at soon-to-be announced locations throughout the Greater San Francisco Bay region.

So find your thinking caps, ready your questions on all things oily, and get ready to have some fun while helping us to better prepare for oiled wildlife collection and care in California! We will be getting back to everyone very soon with many more details on what is certain to be a great weekend!

– Mike

Snow, Marbled Murrelets, Glaciers, and Seabird Talks

Mike and I recently returned from Juneau, Alaska, where we participated in the Pacific Seabird Group annual meeting.  Between Thursday and Saturday of last week we were able to listen to a number of interesting talks about seabirds in the Pacific, learning everything from what seabirds eat to the most technologically-advanced gadgets for tracking seabirds (perfect for a gadget geek like me!).  In addition, Mike and I were co-conveners of a Special Paper Session entitled, “Oiled Seabird Rescue and Rehabilitation: Is it Worth It?”  This session was well-attended and featured ten excellent presentations.  The following is a list of the titles of the talks and the presenters:

  • Oiled seabird rescue and rehabilitation:  is it worth it? (Kyra Mills-Parker, OWCN – UC Davis)
  • Variables that can affect survival of oil-affected seabirds before, during, and after the rehabilitation process (Michael Ziccardi (OWCN – UC Davis)
  • Magnetic cleansing of oiled seabirds:  where are we and where to next? (Peter Dann, Phillip Island Nature Parks, Australia)
  • Impacts of major oil spills in California, 1994-2013 (Hannah Nevins, UC Davis, DFW-Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center)
  • Longevity and dispersion of rehabilitated seabirds and waterfowl, 1980-2010: preliminary data from oiled bird band returns (Becky Duerr, International Bird Rescue)
  • Penguins clearly benefit from rehabilitation following exposure to oil (Valeria Ruoppolo, Univ. of Sao Paolo and IFAW)
  • Oiled wildlife response in New Zealand: the C/V Rena incident (Kerri Morgan, Massey Univ., presented by Michael Ziccardi)
  • Causes of seabird mortality in the immediate aftermath of the Rena oil spills, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand (Shane Baylis, Monash Univ.)
  • Impacts of the 2001 Jessica oil spill on endemic and native Galapagos birds, reptiles, and mammals (Howard Snell, Univ. of New Mexico)
  • Seabirds, oil spill response and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: DWH and changing management priorities (Roger Helm, USFWS)

Each of the talks offered interesting and thought-provoking information on different topics related to oil spill events, the effects of oiling on seabirds, and summaries of impacts and rehabilitation efforts. Full abstracts of each of these talks can be found at the PSG website by clicking here. The meeting provided a great opportunity to re-connect with old colleagues, meet new ones, and share ideas.  Despite the 50+ degree difference in temperature between Juneau and California, Mike and I were warmed, humbled, and inspired by this conference.

And yes, we did  see snow, glaciers, AND Marbled Murrelets (the last two only at a distance!).



Mike Ziccardi and Becky Duerr with Mendenhall Glacier in the background.

Jam-Packed Week in the World of Wildlife!

Hello all-

Wow!  What a busy week for wildlife issues and events – some good and some not so much. To keep this blog post at Kaiti-approved length (for those of you who are old like me and remember our former Volunteer Coordinator-turned-ecolawyer), here are the highlights:


Deepwater Horizon Spill (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Apr 20th = 3rd year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Spill. It’s hard to believe that it has been three years since that event rocked the oil spill world. Efforts are still underway to understand the impacts to the Gulf of Mexico from this blowout, with some info just now being released on marine mammal issues (see below). On the readiness side, the OWCN is finalizing a first draft of new and expanded national Oiled Marine Mammal Guidelines for NOAA-NMFS that will hopefully help address some of the key issues this spill raised.

Apr 21 = Oiled wildlife training for the International Association of Aquatic Animal Medicine (IAAAM) conference, hosted by The Marine Mammal Center. Christine, Nancy and I gave a day-long course to over 40 international marine animal professionals (mostly marine mammal vets, but several others of various ilk). The course was long on Powerpoints (cramming oil spill info on mammal and birds species over a short time period), but did include a great hands-on portion where TMMC allowed us to do “processing and intake” on four juvenile elephant seals. Overall, it was a great enthusiastic group – special thx to Frances Gulland and Tenaya Norris for organizing, as well as the entire TMMC vet/husbandry staff for pitching in during a very busy day!

Platform A Oil Spill (courtesy MSNBC)

Apr 22nd = Earth Day. In 1970, the concept of Earth Day was developed by Gaylord Nelson, US Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the effects of the 1969 Platform A blowout in Santa Barbara. He felt that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Since that time, Earth Day has held a special place in our hearts within the oil spill community, as it led to the formation of the USEPA, the Clean Water Act, and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA90). For more info on this event and its history, please visit

Apr 22nd – 25th = IAAAM Conference at Cavallo Point Lodge, Sausalito. This international meeting brought together more than 440 wildlife professionals from 25 countries to discuss issues and research findings pertinent to our marine species. The setting was gorgeous, the papers and posters fascinating, and the discussions and networking capabilities were thought-provoking and exciting. Especially relevant was presentations by Drs. Stephanie Venn-Watson and Cynthia Smith of the National Marine Mammal Foundation on health affects being seen in bottlenose dolphins from the coastal Louisiana region. Fascinating work that may assist us in better understanding the unusual mortality event that continues to rage there, and the possible effects that the DWH spill had on this species. More info on the conference can be found at

Oiled little blue penguins (Courtesy Maritime NZ)

Oiled little blue penguins (Courtesy Maritime NZ)

Apr 25th = World Penguin Day. To round out a crazy busy week, we took a day to appreciate and better understand the amazing animals that are penguins. As we are all aware, penguins are key animals for us to describe the horrific effects of oil on animals (as the Treasure and Oliva oil spills) as well as the significantly positive results that can be seen with effective and professional rehabilitation (as SANCCOB/IBRRC/IFAW and Massey University have shown). Further, these birds have led to significant research on the long-term effects of oiling on marine species and given us great data to base arguments on the merits of intervention after oil spills. Lastly (and something I did not know before), they can tell us a lot about our own personality types! If you haven’t yet done so, go take the Pew Charitable Trust Penguin Personality Quiz (as well as learn about the conservation efforts for “your” species). BTW – Adelie penguins rule!

OK, so much for “highlights”! I hope everyone has a great restful and oil-free weekend!

– Mike


All abuzz

We OWCNers are a busy bunch these days, getting ready for Oilapalooza 2012 and preparing for numerous other conferences, events, and drills.  Our last “Special Topics” webinar this year was given last month by yours truly, and if you attended but haven’t yet taken the quiz, do so now while it’s still fresh in your mind.  Remember, you don’t get “credit” for attending the webinar until you have taken (and passed!) the quiz.  If you’re working on watching recorded webinars in our core training series, thank you for your committment!  As Becky said last week, watching the whole series puts the different aspects of wildlife response in context and helps each of us understand our part in the larger response . . . and appreciate the many other roles that our fellow responders play.

Many activities are coming up, but none so important as Oilapalooza.  As you have probably realized from the posts and registration, we’ve moved the venue from Scotts Valley to the Hotel Paradox.  It’s a brand-new hotel and we are very excited about it!  Although the setting won’t be unique like the Queen Mary, we’ve got a great program lined up, as well as a few surprises up our sleeves (no, I’m not telling you what they are, because then it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?).

Before Oilapalooza, the OWCN Scientific Advisory Committee and our Advisory Board will meet.  The SAC is a group of scientists that selects the research proposals that will be funded through our Competitive Grants program.  Our AB is the group of experts that approves our activities and budget.  I’d like to shout out a big THANK YOU to all the members of these groups for their volunteer efforts to keep making the OWCN better and better!

Have a great weekend, and as Mike would say, “Don’t spill anything!”


Pacific Seabird Group Annual Meeting

I just returned from the 39th annual meeting of the Pacific Seabird Group. The setting for the meeting this year was at Turtle Bay Resort, in Haleiwa, Hawaii (northern shore of Oahu). It had been about 9 years since the last time I was at a PSG meeting, so I was thrilled to be given the chance to re-connect with old friends and meet new seabird biologists. The scientific program theme for this year’s conference was “Tropical Seabirds”, and was one of the largest PSG programs ever, with 144 oral presentations and 56 posters. Each day began with a plenary speaker, all of them excellent: Dr. Matthieu LeCorre (“Migration strategies of seabirds of the tropical Indian Ocean”), Dr. John Cooper (“Conservation and restoration of islands in the Southern Ocean”), and Dr. Jeffrey Polovina (“Recent changes at the top and bottom of the Central North Pacific subtropical ecosystem”). I gave two oral presentations, “Post-release monitoring of Western Grebes using implanted satellite transmitters” and “Shared sensitivities to environmental variation as a tool for threatened species management”. In addition, I was one of the student judges, so I was kept pretty busy running from room to room to catch talks and reading posters. I must say, though, I was very impressed with the quality of the student talks and posters.

The week flew by, but I did get a chance to see a Hawaiian monk seal (photo below), Laysan albatross, and a few Red-footed boobies flying by. Since the monk seals are critically endangered, with only about 1060 individuals (NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service website), all sightings of seals are reported. The seal I saw is an adult female known as R016, or Right Spot, named as such because of the spot that this animal has on her back. It was also relatively easy to see humpback whales breaching if you kept your eyes on the horizon and past the breakers. The last day of the meeting they had a Fun Run as a fundraiser for albatross conservation. I participated in this, and the idea was to “catch the albatross”, who was this incredibly fast guy wearing an albatross hat. Given that his slowest pace was faster than my fastest pace, I didn’t have much of a chance to catch him, but it was a fun way to end the week anyway. Overall, it was a truly inspiring conference and location.


Yes, the blob on the beach is a Hawaiian monk seal known as "Right Spot"

Spill Readiness in Alaska

Sorry to be later than normal getting this blog entry out, but it has been a challenge getting my photos off my new camera to include on this entry without the cable that came with it (ah, technology!). And, yes, I am IT support for the OWCN…

Back in December, Tim Lebling, Alaska Sea Life Center’s (ASLC) Stranding Coordinator, invited me up to attend the AK Marine Mammal Stranding Network’s annual meeting. He asked if I could share my experiences with Deepwater Horizon (him being one of the three folks reading my blogs during the event – and yes I know there were more than three but it makes me feel less under the spotlight saying so) as well as info on how the OWCN operates response here in California. I had to hold off saying yes at first, as some DWH after-action meetings were tentatively scheduled around that time, but luckily those became de-scheduled and I was able to head up to Seward.

Alaska Sea Life Center

While normally I wouldn’t be ecstatic in heading northward in February (I thought I left all that behind by leaving Chicago), I had long wanted to visit the Center, as: 1) it was borne out of the Exxon Valdez disaster; 2) I had heard wonderful things from Shawn Johnson about it (as he worked there several years ago); 3) the OWCN has funded several research projects there through the veterinarians Pam Tuomi and Carrie Goertz; 4) the Marine Mammal Network has undergone a huge increase in activities over the past several years; and 5) spill response planning in that region (largely through ASLC and IBRRC) has begun to pick up again. Additionally, Sarah Wilkin of NOAA (my co-conspirator/OMTU Leader during Deepwater Horizon) was going to be able to attend, so together we could see how AK was moving their Network forward and possibly apply some of these activities to CA (that and she could give one of the talks I was slated to give!). So I packed my warm clothes and headed up.

The trip was beautiful – landing in Anchorage with absolutely clear skies, driving from ANC to Seward along the inlet as the sun set, and being a balmy 30 degrees! The next day, the meeting started, with over 50 folks in attendance. Many, many interesting reports and presentations were done from all regions in the state – Kodiak/Aleutians, Bearing Strait, Arctic/Barrow, Southeast, South Central and Yakutat. Additionally, presentations from USFWS on sea otter and walrus (and, no, not the Gulf walrus…) issues, the US Coast Guard on regional capabilities, the AK Health Department on marine mammal zoonotic agents (and referencing one of my grad student’s papers fairly extensively on it) , and an update of algal biotoxin testing helped round out the first 1 1/2 days of the meeting.

Brett Long and Woody, ASLC's captive Steller Sea Lion

Interestingly enough, USFWS also reported on ongoing oil spill preparedness issues – issues related to polar bears. Ahh – nothing like discussing a species that looks at you more like a chocolate pudding cup than a predator. On a serious note, it was heartening to see the issue revisited, as previously it was assumed that bears would not be cared for due to human safety issues. However, females and cubs are now being considered for possible oil spill rehabilitation should space and resources be available. Dr. Pam Yochem (of Hubbs Sea World Research Institute in San Diego) has been involved with this effort, and hopefully I will be able to assist as well if (and when) this effort continues to move forward.

The last half of the second day was the Mike-Sara Show, where I gave an overview of the Marine Mammal National Standards and Oil Spill 101, and Sarah gave an excellent synopsis of the DWH spill as it related to marine mammals and sea turtles (this was in addition to my being asked to “just tell stories” at the previous night’s banquet, but that is another story…). We then had an excellent open discussion on AK readiness for spill response, and how the regional and species differences would impact oiled wildlife efforts. In 2005, when Shawn J. and I had gone through the US providing trainings to each of the Stranding Networks on oil spill response, I unfortunately was not able to attend the AK Regional training, so the discussion was extremely informative to me.

I was heartened to hear that there was great enthusiasm about assisting during oil spills, but the fact that the ASLC is the only permanent rehabilitation facility for mammals in AK, coupled with challenges due to the rugged environment and issues related to substinence hunting of wildlife, make the enacting of oiled wildlife recovery very complex. However, it is clear that the wildlife professionals to our north are very interested in increasing their capabilities and capacity if (and when) an oil spill might come through, and I hope the OWCN can be an active participant in helping them work through these thorny issues.

Lastly, I want to thank Tim and the ASLC staff (particularly Brett Long, previously of UCSC’s Long Marine Lab, and Carrie Goertz) for the invitation and wonderful hospitality. Hopefully it won’t be the last time I will be able to visit, but I would prefer to come up again for ongoing plnning versus response!

– Mike

P.S. – Was also able to drop in on the Warnock clan while waiting for my 1:30 am flight out of ANC. Everyone is doing great and Nils gives all OWCN folks a hello!