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!


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

Oilapalooza 2013!

Thanks to everyone from the 21 member and 6 affiliated organizations who joined us in San Diego to make Oilapalooza 2013 a great success!  SeaWorld San Diego was a fantastic host.  We really can’t thank Lauren, Diana, Mike, and many other SeaWorld folks enough for helping make the Sunday wet labs and workshops run smoothly, and for a lovely and classy (despite Matt’s jokes!) Saturday sea turtle on bucketoilapalooza-2013-conference-room

There were a lot of highlights to the weekend, such as fun with sea turtles, an amazing raptor demonstration, a lot of cute baby bird photos, and a sobering introduction to the changes in oil movement through California.  Now that the conference is over and you’ve completed your webinars, consider checking out the newly launched sea otter website that Dr. Miller told us about:

It was great to see all of you!  Your enthusiasm was infectious. Let’s keep that momentum going throughout the year, as we maintain our readiness, update our skills and knowledge, and do all we can for California’s wildlife. Thank you all.



Ten ducks walk into a bar . . . .

Just kidding. But OWCN staffers did have some fun with ducks lately, helping out veterinarian and Master’s student Dr. Shelley Smith with an interesting research project that has a lot of relevance for oil spill response. Using 10 “volunteer” domestic ducks, kindly lent to us by a real volunteer, we tested out temperature-sensitive microchips. These are like the microchips that you can have placed in your dog or cat for identification, but in addition to containing an ID number, they read temperature. Our hope is that they will be accurate enough so that during a spill, we can simply wave a chip reader over an oiled bird and read its temperature, instead of having to pick up the bird, place a thermometer up its butt, and wait for the thermometer to read. Think of how much easier that would be, both on the bird AND on the people!

A duck getting a microchip implanted.

A duck getting a microchip implanted.

Shelley is testing two sites for the chip, one by the hip and one in the pectoral muscle. She’s comparing temperatures of both chips to cloacal temperature and proventricular (stomach) temperature. The initial part of the study went great, with lots of help from veterinary students and OWCN staff, as well as logistic help from International Bird Rescue. We even developed a “new” handling technique for ducks, called the “Cross Your Heart” duck restraint method, demonstrated beautifully by Becky in the photo below.

Becky single-handedly restraining a duck while taking its cloacal and stomach temperature.

Becky single-handedly restraining a duck while taking its cloacal and stomach temperature.

Another benefit of this study was the experience it gave in avian handling to several veterinary students. We asked the Wildlife club at the vet school if anyone was interested in volunteering their help, and we got an overwhelming response!  Fourteen veterinary students lent a hand and learned a little bit about birds and research in the process.

Shelley reading a microchip while veterinary student Maris restrains a duck.

Shelley reading a microchip while third-year veterinary student Maris restrains a duck.

Shelley is working on analyzing the data, but we hope to hear about the results soon. She’ll be presenting at Oilapalooza, so look forward to hearing from her there. If the data look good, our next step is trying the chips on seabirds!


Final Call for Oilapalooza Registration

Registration for Oilapalooza will be closing this Friday, September 6th.  We added a few days of registration to allow extra time for those who are finishing up their webinars.  Since Oilapalooza is a Level 2 training, we are requiring completion of our Online Training Series as a prerequisite to registering.  If you would like to attend Oilapalooza, but have not completed the Online Training Series, please contact us right away at so that we can help you to finish up.

We also recently added two workshops to Sunday’s conference schedule.  A second Avian Necropsy class was added to the afternoon workshop schedule, and an Oiled Wildlife Recovery Level 2 class was added as a full day workshop.  If you have already selected your workshop preferences for the conference, and would like to change to one of these labs, please contact us at


Striving for Professionalism

Hello all,

As many of you start registering for OIlapalooza 2013, Becky has received quite a few emails asking about the webinar requirements, so I thought I would take a moment to explain the philosophy behind them. First of all, thank you to everyone who has finished the webinar series!  You all get a gold star 🙂

Oilapalooza is over 5 years old now, and I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who have attended every year, sat through every lecture,  and taken multiple wet labs.  That is fantastic! However, if you’re one of those people, you *might* be wondering why you also have to sit through all those webinars and quizzes. We understand your frustration, and we have a couple of reasons for you (and one request).

Our goal is to be a highly professional oiled wildlife response team. When we are called upon to respond to a spill, we aim to work with the responsible party (RP) in a professional way, even though a large part of our workforce is volunteer. One way we do this is through written job descriptions that detail the qualifications and responsibilities of every responder, from management to staff to volunteer. By ensuring that all staff members and high-level volunteers have taken the webinars, we can ensure the RP and other stakeholders that responders have received consistent training. This gives the RP, the public, and the wildlife trustees confidence that they can trust us to perform in an effective and cost-effective manner.

Another reason to watch the webinars and take the quizzes is that we all forget things AND no one knows everything (except for Lavonne. She really does know everything, luckily for us!). You never know when you might learn something new, even if it’s just a tip or an interesting factoid. Even if you are already an expert on the bird side of things, knowing a bit about oiled mammals might help you better understand the whole response process. At the very least, it can give you something to chat about at cocktail parties.

Well, those are a couple of reasons we ask you to watch all the webinars instead of attending cocktail parties. Finally, our request: please take the quizzes!  Your viewing of the webinar is not recorded until you take and pass the quiz. Quizzes are now known to help cement knowledge (in other words, although we used to think of tests as just a way for teachers to measure how much you know, recent research indicates that the process of taking a test actually improves your knowledge retention!), and after all, our quizzes aren’t that hard!

Thanks to everyone who has registered for Oilapalooza and taken the webinars!  We’re looking forward to a great conference this year and look forward to seeing you all there.