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

OWCN’s Inland Survey Says….

As many of you know, we recently held our first inland Full Deployment Drill since the expansion of the OWCN’s mandate to cover all surface waters of the State.  This was a unique experience that gave us some fresh insight into the challenges that face us when responding away from marine waters.  As a follow-up, we sent out a survey to all OWCN responders asking a few questions about volunteering during inland response.  We had over a hundred responses to the survey, and were pleased to learn that there is a strong desire in the Network to volunteer during inland response, despite the difficulties that come with responding in remote locations.

Chart_Q4_170504-1Notably, 75% of survey responses indicated people would be willing to volunteer for full day shifts instead of the usual 4 hour shift.  This is important since it will be difficult to get many volunteers mobilized to more remote areas, and the willingness to work longer shifts means that we need fewer total volunteers each day.  Additionally, we found that if we are able to provide accommodations and reimburse travel expenses, volunteer interest and availability increases dramatically.  This is something that we will be taking into account when we plan for volunteers at future inland responses.

Finally, we read through all the comments, which were very helpful.  Many of you are interested in more training on how to handle inland species, and many others had comments discussing how providing accommodations would really help – some were even willing to stay in tents during inland responses!  Thank you to everyone who had a chance to respond to the survey, and know that this information is very valuable to us as we build our inland program.

-Becky

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

Save the Date: HAZWOPER Trainings

WR team in PPE Refugio 2015 Gayle Uyehara

Wildlife Recovery Team prepares to enter the Hot Zone at the Refugio Oil Spill (photo courtesy of Gayle Uyehara)

With the New Year comes resolutions, my first OWCN blog, and the most exciting of all – in person 24 hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Training dates!  We wanted to share these dates as early as possible, so those of you out there needing to complete this training can mark your calendars.  We will be creating online activities in our responder database shortly, so that those interested can sign up.  But please feel free to spread the word throughout the Network.

As of today, we have the following 2016 dates set (all classes are 3 days in length, from 8am to 5pm each day):

  • February 23rd – 25th in Redding (exact location TBD)
  • April 19th – 21st in Bakersfield (exact location TBD)
  • May 24th – 26th in San Diego (SeaWorld)
  • August 16th – 18th in Sausalito (The Marine Mammal Center)

As a reminder, if you wish to respond within the hot zone of an oil spill, you must have proof of current 24 hour HAZWOPER certification. Once this initial class is completed, you will be required to annually refresh your certification to maintain its active status, which can be accomplished via our OWCN online 8hr HAZWOPER Refresher course.

If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Cheers to a healthy, happy, HAZWOPER filled 2016!

Scott