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 http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement.

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 http://www.iaaam.org.

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


Happy 40th Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day everyone! As I said last year, since the inception of the original Earth Day in 1970 has its (grass) roots from the Platform A oil spill off of Santa Barbara in 1969, it has a special meaning to us at the OWCN.

Oiled scoter cared for during the 1969 Platform A oil spill

In an interview posted today by CBC News, Finis Dunaway, an associate professor of history at Trent University who is writing a book on the history of environmentalism, explains the inception of Earth Day:

“Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, published in 1962, warned about pesticides and their effects on wildlife and on human health. That helped to popularize ecological ideas to a larger audience. The book created a lot of controversy and there was a backlash from the chemical industry.”

“In the late ’60s, there was increasing coverage of environmental problems and air pollution became more talked about. In 1969, there was a dramatic oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif., that received extensive media coverage. The stories showed sea lions, western grebes covered in oil, struggling to survive, suffocating and dying along this beautiful beach in Southern California.”

“This oil spill made an impression on Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin. It was Nelson who came up with the idea for Earth Day. It was partly from going to Santa Barbara. He had been in environmental issues before but this really seemed to have affected him.”

“Nelson had read about students who had been organizing teach-ins against the Vietnam War. These are events that took place on university and college campuses where students and others would gather together and talk about the war and organize and take action against it. He thought a similar model could be used for the environmental movement. It was a pretty modest idea to begin with. So the idea came from Nelson. He started to promote the notion of an environment teach-in, but because of growing ecological concern, because of protest movements taking place during the 1960s, the idea really captured the imagination of many, many people, far more than Nelson could have ever have predicted.”

“In a sense, he turned over the organization of the events to a staff primarily of graduate students and people in their 20s, and they helped to co-ordinate activities nation-wide. This was done up from the grassroots.”

“When the event took place on April 22, 1970, it was estimated that about 20 million American participated in some form in Earth Day events in their communities, which made it the largest protest in U.S. history, larger than any protest against the Vietnam War. A lot of people see it as a pivotal moment into making environmentalism into a mass movement. It put it on the radar screen of the media.”

So, whatever you do and wherever you are, please take time today to appreciate our environment!


PS – some other interesting articles and links:
Earth Day: No more burning rivers, but new threats (AP)
Earth Day Network
The White House Earth Day Page

Oiled Wildlife – Reflections and Recent Events

Plt A Cleanup

Cleanup during 1969's Platform A Oil Spill (Courtesy LA Times)

The first three months of 2009 was a busy time for oiled wildlife response throughout the world!

For the U.S., remembering the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound (20 years ago) and the Platform A oil well blowout in Santa Barbara that started the US EPA (40 years ago), we have had time to reflect on the devastation that oil spills can wreak on the environment.

In looking back, we have also had an opportunity to evaluate how far we have come for spill preparedness over this relatively short period of time, but also emphasizing where additional attention should be placed.

We have also had several spills in, and reports from, different areas of the world that have shown us that constant readiness and research is critical to make sure oiled wildlife responders are as ready as possible to help affected wildlife in distress.

Several key news articles have come out in the past several months detailing many of these issues.  The OWCN has been very active on many of these fronts, and is working with the key colleagues in these areas to help where we can.  These include:

Oiled turtles from Queensland ready to be released (Courtesy ABC: Michelle Hill)

Oiled turtles from Queensland's oil spill ready to be released (Courtesy ABC: Michelle Hill)

We hope that providing this type of info regularly in the OWCN’s blog, we can keep everyone up-to-date on the most recent information out there, and let you know what the OWCN is doing to help on these broader issues related to oiled wildlife response.  After all, the best way for us to provide the best achievable capture and care of oiled wildlife is to share the knowledge and experience that exists!

-Mike Ziccardi, Director

Birds Released

Two oiled birds (a western and Clark’s grebe) recovered during the Platform A spill response were successfully rehabilitated and released yesterday. Unfortunately the red-throated loon that was also in care did not survive. This is a sad consequence of any oil spill, but we continually strive to improve our care for these animals through research, education, and training.

12 December 2008: Demobilization of Field Ops

Today, only one bird was observed in the Ventura Harbor with possible oiling – a loon that was “riding low in the water”. This is a common sign of a bird with waterproofing problems, and is due to water seeping under the feathers causing a loss of buoyancy. However, this finding can also be seen due to a number of other issues not related to oiling, such as other contaminants and poor general health (which leads to decreased preening).

Due to the decreased numbers of birds seen and collected within the spill area, it was decided by all of the involved parties to discontinue active search and collection efforts this evening. However, if people in the area of the spill do see oiled wildlife, please continue to call the OWCN Oiled Wildlife Hotline at (877) UCD-OWCN (877-823-6926) so we can contact our local partners.


Los Angeles Oiled Bird Center

An update on those birds that were affected: The three live birds that were captured are doing very well at our San Pedro center.  They were successfully washed yesterday, and today are being reintroduced into permanent pools at the 12,000 square foot purpose-built facility.  Once they appear to regain “normal” behaviors and body condition, they will be caught up out of pools, fully examined and, if they are healthy, will be released with permanent bands on them.  That will not be for several days at least though, as birds take time to regain waterproofing and body mass.  So stay tuned!

-Mike Ziccardi, OWCN Director

11 December 2008: End of Day 4

Western grebe being rinsed (Erica Lander)

Western grebe being rinsed (Erica Lander)

All 3 birds were washed this afternoon and are recovering well. No additional oiled birds were captured today. Teams will continue searching tomorrow.

Lightly oiled birds are often able to remain offshore and elude capture for several days after they are initially contaminated. Once they begin to weaken from hypothermia and other complications, they seek the shoreline.

Soap must be completed removed after wash so that feathers can become waterproof (Erica Lander)

Soap must be completed removed after wash so that feathers can become waterproof (Erica Lander)

A capture team heading out (Nils Warnock)

An OWCN capture team heading out (Nils Warnock)

Traffic on the beach – people, and especially dogs – may discourage birds from coming ashore and keep them from getting the care they deserve. Do not approach birds that have beached themselves as this could drive them back into the water.

–Greg Massey, OWCN Assistant Director

11 December 2008: No New Birds So Far

An oiled red-throated loon resting on a cushion that protects its keel

An oiled red-throated loon rests on a cushion that protects its keel (Erica Lander)

Field crews have been searching throughout the day, but no new oiled animals have been observed or captured. The 3 birds admitted to the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center had a quiet night and were stable this morning. Laboratory tests suggest they might be strong enough to be cleaned this afternoon.

-Greg Massey, OWCN Assistant Director

10 December 2008: End of Day 3

Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center

Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center

Things have gotten a little busier today. As of this evening, we have 3 live oiled birds in care at the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center. This is the OWCN’s largest oiled bird response facility in Southern California.

The birds are being given supportive care (food, fluids, and supplemental heat). We’ll monitor blood tests, body temperature and weight to determine when they are stable enough to be cleaned. This is a critical time for the birds as they begin to regain strength and fight the external and internal effects of oiling.

-Greg Massey, OWCN Assistant Director

8 December 2008: End of Day 1

Today’s final report from the field is that preliminary surveillance has found no signs of oiled wildlife. Teams will have a better chance to cover more ground at first light tomorrow and get a more complete picture of the situation.

At this point we are focusing our efforts onshore because there have been no reports of oiled wildlife from responders at sea. Without an identified area to search for birds on water, it is more efficient to search along the shoreline. Birds that become oiled lose their waterproofing and become cold. This forces them to leave the water and come ashore. By searching the shoreline we have the best chance of finding those that are in need of rescue.

– Greg Massey, OWCN Assistant Director