A holiday message from the ghost of oil spills past

 

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In many of our training materials we talk about looking for the silver lining in the aftermath of a spill. Silver linings can be many things. For one spill it might be new methods to care for oiled wildlife, while for another it might be new legislation to increase prevention and preparedness. The Deepwater Horizon was a huge spill with many negative impacts – some of which we are still learning about. At least one of the silver linings from that disaster has been the array of scientific studies that have been done to measure impacts to wildlife, the environment and to the people who responded.

The wildlife response spanned coastal and offshore areas from Louisiana to Florida and included many of us from OWCN Member Organizations as well as from OSPR and CDFW. Eight years after the event, studies continue to be published and two came out recently that I read with interest and I feel are important to share. I share them not to scare anyone, but simply to remind us that the chemical products we work around during spills are hazardous materials, and that oil spills are traumatic events that can impact our mental health as well.  The OWCN and OSPR both work very hard to ensure the safety of our responders, providing required training and annual refreshers, safety officers, safety protocols and provided PPE during response but ultimately it is up to each of us to keep ourselves informed and safe.

Both of these papers are part of the GULF Study (Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study) and a detailed discussion of both are well beyond the scope of an OWCN blog. I hope you will take a look at both of them and read them completely if you are so inclined.

One looks at mental health indicators associated with oil spill response workers including some working with wildlife and can be found here.

The second looks at lung function and association with oil spill response and clean-up work roles and found an impact in those handling oily plants/wildlife or dead animals. A summary can be found here.

As with anything else you read on the internet please do so critically. Neither of these focused on what we consider “professional” oiled wildlife responders like many of you are with the training and experience to identify the hazards and recognize how to mitigate them. I present them simply in an effort to help you stay on the cutting edge of health and safety in oiled wildlife response.

While this may not be a typical “Happy holidays” type of message, the health and safety of all of our responders (and their families) comes into true focus at this time of year. Please enjoy a safe holiday season!

Curt

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

Thoughts from the road…

As I pack up our reliable 1997 F-250 diesel truck and begin the journey home along Interstate 5 north, I am filled with gratitude for being part of another great OWCN training.

Nancy, Curt, and I taught our Basic Responder Training course yesterday, hosted graciously at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. Participants were engaged, enthusiastic, and, best of all, represented a diverse collection of our Southern California member organizations.  We had 30 folks from 8 different organizations, including:

  • Channel Islands Cetacean Research Unit
  • International Bird Rescue
  • Aquarium of the Pacific
  • Marine Mammal Care Center – Los Angeles
  • Pacific Marine Mammal Center
  • SeaWorld San Diego
  • UC Davis Wildlife Health Center
  • Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center

This diversity also provided us with a few veteran responders with lots of spill experience to share, sitting alongside many newcomers who have yet to respond to a spill but are eager to help (should they be needed). One participant shared with me after the class that she found spill response a bit intimidating, but that fear was alleviated via this course and that she was now ready to lend a hand.

While everyone in that room hopes this new knowledge will never need to be used, it does provide me great comfort to know that we have so many skilled, passionate, and reliable responders throughout our state ready to jump into action.

Thank you Pacific Marine Mammal Center for hosting, and thank you to all the participants for your support.

Scott

 

New OWCN-IBR Collaboration Seems Like Old Times

Last month I traveled with Barbara Callahan from OWCN Member Organization International Bird Rescue (IBR) to Baku, Azerbaijan. What made this training especially significant was that this was the first international training project that OWCN and IBR collaborated on as partners from start to finish. Our mission was to help increase the level of preparedness for oiled wildlife response in that country. We were there on behalf of BP, the managing partner of the BTC Pipeline Company. The pipeline runs from south of Baku on the Caspian Sea to the Lesser Caucasus Mountains through Georgia and then to the Ceyhan Terminal in Turkey on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

 

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BTC Pipeline (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan)

City of contrasts (1)

City of contrasts: the old and the new

It was not the first time I had been to this corner of the world, and over the years I have come to appreciate this city of contrasts and of seemingly constant change. Simply looking at the skyline provides evidence of the immense influence of oil on this city and country.

While the OWCN continues to expand within California and along with our Member Organizations, we work to increase our readiness and improve our capacity for spills, we are also seeking opportunities to leverage our knowledge and experience to help other areas of the world as well. Through collaborations as represented with this training, as well as other projects we are involved with, such as the Global Oiled Wildlife Response System, we are working to share our knowledge as well as bring back the experiences of those we meet around the world.

The training in Baku included more than 100 participants from a diversity of NGOs, government agencies and industry (a few if them include the Institute of Geology, the Baku Zoo, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, Baku Veterinary Department, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, the Azerbaijan Society for the Protection of Animals, the Institute of Zoology, BP, State Oil Company of Azerbaijan and many more).  These various groups came together during the training to learn basic concepts of oiled wildlife response and to develop basic plans for setting up a wildlife facility.  The diversity of backgrounds and participant age enriched the discussion with a variety of perspectives, opinions and questions, increasing the learning and enjoyment for us all.

Facility plan team

Developing a facility plan

Facility exercise AZ training

Presenting the plan to the class

The third day was a hands-on field exercise on a windy Caspian Sea beach outside of the city where nearly 50 participants practiced in the capture of birds and mammals, provided first responder aid to captured wildlife, and made decisions on transport to wildlife facilities.

Caspian seal capture AZ exercise

Exercise: Capturing a seal

This training provided everyone, myself included, with a better understanding of what an oiled wildlife response in Azerbaijan would be like. All in all, a very worthwhile endeavor. I hope the OWCN will have more opportunities to collaborate with International Bird Rescue and other organizations to share our collective experiences.  It is only in collaborating and sharing experiences that we can move forward along the never-ending road to best achievable care.

Curt

After Oilapalooza

14 days ago, at about 5:00pm, we put the bow on the 2017 Oilapalooza. After two full days of networking, learning, and fun, we packed up our gear and waved goodbye to the many spill responders, agency representatives, and topic specialists who took time out of their busy lives to gather together for this event.

Randell during Reception

Zach Randell pauses during the reception to share the Southern Sea Otter tags he has been developing.

It’s always a bittersweet time, coming down from the social high of being among such intelligent and passionate people. Of course, the management team’s work isn’t done, but we have time for a bit of cake, champagne, and camaraderie.

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The OWCN Management Team celebrates a successful Oilapalooza with cake and champagne.

After the packing and travel and a tiny bit of sleep, we start to collect our thoughts, put away our equipment, upload our photos, and dive through the participant feedback we received during the event.

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The answer to one of our feedback questions

 

The Management Team’s final task was a hotwash, which we held this morning. Now we can close the book on the 2017 event and open the one for 2019 (not really, I’ll give everyone a couple days to regroup!).  But before we all move on to other projects, let’s take a moment to reflect on a good times with the extraordinary group of people that make up the oiled wildlife response world, especially those who happened to be able to join us in Monterey two weeks ago. I had a blast and I hope you all did too.

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Oilapalooza Update

It’s incredible how quickly months can fly. I have a hard time believing that it’s the end of August and we are just 8 weeks away from Oilapalooza. Please excuse me for a moment while I look at my to-do list and quietly hyperventilate…

boat trainingMore seriously, I am absolutely jazzed about this year’s event. I’m pretty sure it’s going to blow your socks right off. We’ll have to have a sock-claiming station at the back of the room. We’ve got some amazing speakers and instructors from 25 different organizations and agencies, including 11 of our very own Member Organizations. There are several never-before-seen workshops planned, including Herptile Capture, Passerine 101, and Terrestrial Mammal 101, as well as encores of the ever-popular On Water Capture and Sea Turtle 101.

Wednesday is also packed with amazing topics, including case studies, post-release study reports, multi-org panels, and exciting lectures such as:

  • Use of Technology for Improving Wildlife Recovery During Spills (Dave Garcelon of Institute for Wildlife Studies)
  • Inland Oil Spills: Species Data and Implications for Wildlife Responders (Jenny Schlieps of Focus Wildlife)
  • Oil-induced Cardiomyopathy in Birds Affected by Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (Kendal Harr of URIKA, LLC)

All of our speakers and workshop instructors work so hard and we’re grateful for their support; this event wouldn’t happen without them. If you happen to run into one in the wild, definitely offer them a hi-five or thumbs-up–they deserve it!

8145059723_30896ecb33_oBack here on the logistics side, the OWCN Management Team is acquiring lab supplies, soliciting exciting prizes for the responder appreciation raffle, and generally trying to keep everything organized. You may hear from us now and again as we get closer to the event, especially if you are a Member Organization Contact.

If you are registered to attend, either as speaker or attendee, I am so looking forward to sharing these two days with you!  A bit of housekeeping: you should have already signed up for the reception and labs by now, but if you haven’t, please get in touch with me ASAP so we can sort that out. Also, though we hope everyone who signed up can make it, remember to let us know if your situation changes before the cancellation deadline, September 27, so we can give your spot to someone on the waitlist.

If you are reading this, super sad because the event is full, don’t forget you can still add yourself to the waitlist until the end of August. If you’re already on the waitlist, hang tight!  Otherwise, if this year didn’t work out for you, we hope to see you at the next one. It’s Oilapaloozas all the way down.

Keep being amazing,

Steph

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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