I generally don’t think much about what I’m going blog about until the deadline is either 6 hours away or 6 hours past and today was no different. I remembered it was my turn to blog when I look at our OWCN shared calendar this morning and saw CC Blog. I thought about Oilapalooza coming up in October, the Oiled Wildlife Specialist training we are all working to develop content for, next year’s full deployment drill, and a bunch of other things we have been working on stop. But then I thought about something more important than any those things and something it is much easier to write about from the heart: Our team.
I have only been on the OWCN Management Team here at the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center in the One Health Institute in beautiful VM3B on the UC Davis campus for two years, but I have been working with the OWCN team since the beginning. Though I probably can’t provide first and last names of everyone who has been member of the OWCN team I think I could get pretty close and I have fond memories of working with everyone. It is always hard to see them move on. But Friday will especially hard because it will be the last day for one of the nicest, most consistently cheerful people I have ever worked with – Becky Elias, the OWCN Volunteer Coordinator.
I know we will all dearly miss her smile, her attitude and her efforts for our cause. Becky has worked alongside a full scale model of R2D2 in a cubicle just outside my office since I became an OWCN employee in June 2015. In my mind though, I will always picture her in Tyvek, sitting in a pen in New Zealand, head down and focused on a bird in hand and surrounded by penguins seeking fish. I think that was the first time that I had really worked with her, and I always feel a spill is where you get to know what a person is really like. Becky is someone who works hard behind the scenes to make sure that the little but important things that are the keys to success in a wildlife response are done well. Even a very successful response like Rena is stressful for the people feeding hundreds penguins several times a day.
Becky as always up for any task no matter how unpleasant or boring it might seem, or how late the hour. Or at least that is the way I will remember her. When she drives off to Washington state with her family this weekend, it may be the end of the Becky Elias Volunteer Coordinator era here at OWCN but I hope she will come back to lend us a hand when we need her in a spill.
As Alexander Graham Bell said “When one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us”. Becky will make it difficult for all of her friends here in Davis and at all of the Member Organizations to not focus on the door which is closing, but I am also eager to see the new door open and I hope you will be as well. But for now, thanks Becky for all that you have done for all of the people who make up the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and from all of those penguins in Rena. You will always be part of the team.
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.
Notably, 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.
The Oiled Wildlife Care Network’s Member Organizations
As a member of the OWCN management team located at UC Davis, I am often asked a very simple question: What is the Oiled Wildlife Care Network? While the answer may seem relatively simple, I find myself often providing a long winded response, as I attempt to portray that the OWCN is a united force composed of diverse organizations that individually excel but collectively impress. In the words of Aristotle, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.
So along with a strong pride for this cohesive resource comes a responsibility to support and engage our member organization community. While many are likely aware of our public outreach efforts, others may not realize that we also offer internal outreach which we have chosen to term engagement. Member organization engagement provides a fantastic opportunity for OWCN management staff to connect directly with our member organization’s staff and volunteers (some of which are current OWCN responders, others are hopefully future responders). The format and presentation style of these engagement events can be customized based on the specific member organization involved, but often consists of an informational overview presentation to both staff and volunteers with a specific highlight on how folks can get further involved and properly pre-trained for spill response.
We have already lined up a few of these events in the coming months with member organizations, including:
- April 28th – The Marine Mammal Center
- May 21st – Monterey Bay Aquarium & Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center
- August 12th – Lindsay Wildlife Experience
If you are involved with a member organization listed above and wish to learn more about the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, make sure to attend!
If you believe your member organization would benefit from hosting an OWCN engagement event this year, please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cheers to our amazing member orgs!
Volunteer recruitment poster from the Marine Mammal Center.
April is National Volunteer Month, and the OWCN staff would like to extend a big thank you to all the pre-trained volunteers in our network! We truly believe that we have the greatest volunteers out there. We are lucky enough to receive volunteers from all of our 30+ amazing Member Organizations around the state – so we get the best of the best on our responder list!
Nancy Mix of International Bird Rescue takes a break from volunteering with a feathered friend.
The OWCN is unique because we don’t get to see our volunteer’s faces very often during non-spill times. We have an online relationship with you all, with the occasional meet up at Oilapalooza, drills, and outreaches. It makes it that much more difficult to accurately reflect our gratitude for all the hard work that each volunteer puts in toward being prepared for oiled wildlife response. That being said, we would like you all to know that we actually do see the effort each volunteer puts into their training, and we are aware of how dedicated each of you are to your Member Organization, and to the wildlife in California.
A virtual flowered thank you to all our volunteers!
So as a reward for all our fantastic pre-trained oiled wildlife volunteers, we send virtual flowers of gratitude (see picture), and urge you all to treat yourself to some ice cream, or a massage, or dinner and a movie, or a new book, or all of the above – you certainly deserve it! And the next time you see any OWCN staff visiting your organization, please come say hi, so we can have the chance to talk in person.