It Takes a Village! (or a coordinated, pre-trained Network)

The Oiled Wildlife Care Network is still currently activated and responding to the Pipeline P00547 Incident. We are on Day 13 of response, and our Wildlife Recovery, Field Stabilization and Care & Processing Groups continue to provide the absolute best achievable capture and care of all oil-affected wildlife. To view current wildlife numbers, please visit our website here.

While the spotlight often shines on our resilient wildlife patients, there is an army of wildlife champions behind the scenes providing some serious world class effort. To date, we have utilized more than 90 affiliated and pre-trained responders filling Incident Command System (ICS) response roles, ranging from volunteers all the way to Deputy Wildlife Branch Director. These responders are representing over 15 of our 44 OWCN Member Organizations, and making us all very proud! (click here to view all 44 OWCN Member Organizations)

In addition to our Network, we work in close collaboration with numerous federal and state agencies during an oil spill response regarding wildlife. We are in step from the beginning with our partners at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Office of Spill Prevention and Response (CDFW-OSPR), as we are activated by this state agency from the very beginning and they usually fill the Wildlife Branch Director role as well as lead Wildlife Reconnaissance efforts (including manning the Hotline). We also are in close communications with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA-NMFS) in preparation for any potential oiled marine mammal or sea turtle patients. And we consult with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding our wildlife response plan for many threatened or endangered species potentially affected by the incident. And a special shout out for this incident to the CDFW Natural Resource Volunteer Program for providing us with personnel and a vehicle for wildlife transport!

As the OWCN Readiness Coordinator for Field Operations, I spend A LOT of my time attempting to prepare the Network for potential incidents just like this one. We recruit talented wildlife professionals, provide ample supplemental oil spill training, and conduct realistic, large scale drills. With all of this done in advance, our ability to respond quickly and efficiently is fine tuned. But even with all the preparation, when a call hits the hotline with the potential for significant wildlife impact, my heart skips a beat. Are the oiled wildlife facilities ready to fire up and begin receiving patients? Are the local 24hr HAZWOPER certified wildlife recovery responders able to head out into the field immediately on such short notice?

While the initial pace was intense, and yes, at some times a bit chaotic, all of my worries were answered with a resounding YES! We were ready to respond and remain ready to help any wildlife in need. So thank you OWCN responders for all your hard work over these past two weeks, and thank you in advance to those who will continue to contribute their time to get us to the finish line.

Each and every Responder should be proud of your own personal readiness, allowing you to quickly jump into action. Your Member Organizations are proud of your tireless efforts. And we, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network’s Management Team (on behalf of the entire Network), are extremely proud and thankful for your dedicated commitment to our wildlife.

Scott Buhl – OWCN

Refugio Beach Oil Spill Recap: 5 Year Status Update

A little over 5 years ago on May 19th, 2015, an underground pipeline running parallel to Highway 101 ruptured near Refugio State Beach (just north of Santa Barbara). As a result, 123,000 gallons of crude oil was spilled, 50,000 of which ran down a ravine under the freeway and entered the ocean.

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The Oiled Wildlife Care Network was activated and our responders sprung into action to rescue oiled wildlife in need of assistance.  As you can see in the summary table below, this was a significant wildlife response, especially considering the high number of marine mammal patients. Over 90 responders joined the effort from 21 different OWCN Member Organizations, logging over 1600+ hours!

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To summarize the large response operation, lessons learned and heroic efforts of many, the OWCN created a Refugio Incident Report, which you can view here. This document summarizes our responder hotwash hosted at UC Davis after the incident in 2015. In reviewing such documents years later, it is always reassuring to see that many of the challenges listed have been addressed operationally. This ensures that we learn and improve from every response, maintaining our ability to provide the best achievable capture and care of oiled wildlife.

And while the focus of OWCN is to provide top notch oiled wildlife response operations from capture to release, there is another aspect of our efforts that does not come to fruition immediately.  The wildlife data we collect, including the summary of both live and dead oiled wildlife, all factor into the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, led by California Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention and Response (CDFW OSPR). Want to learn more about the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process?  Click here.

We are excited to share that just two weeks ago, the draft restoration and assessment plan for the Refugio Oil Spill was presented to the public. You can view the May 13th presentations and FAQs on the CDFW OSPR website here:

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Thank you to all our OWCN responders, CDFW OSPR and everyone involved in responding to this incident.  While we will never forget, we were able to grow from this response and apply lessons learned toward our new and improved operations of present day.

The OWCN Management Team

 

 

OWCN Town Hall Recap & Revised Training Dates

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Small sample of our amazing responders who graciously shared their video so we could see their smiling faces!

Thank you to everyone who joined us live last week for our very first OWCN Town Hall: COVID-19, Recent Activities, and Operational Updates.  We were thrilled to see over 130 responders gather virtually to listen to a global update (thank you Jonna Mazet!), hear a few OWCN specific operational updates, share lessons learned from our most recent response, meet our newest staff member and ask some excellent questions. You are the Network, and we miss you!

 

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Snapshot of the agenda

If you are an OWCN responder and were unable to join the fun, have no fear, as we have posted PDFs of each presentation, along with a recording of the meeting (available via the responder database, listed under the opportunities tab). If you have any issues finding it, just shoot us an email at owcn@ucdavis.edu.

Since we had so much fun, we are already in the early phases of planning another OWCN Town Hall (version 2.0), likely coming your way in June.  But in the mean time, please continue all your efforts to curb the spread of this pandemic, and know that the Oiled Wildlife Care Network remains ready to respond (albeit with some operational modifications).

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Note the NEW dates for some of our training courses!

PS. We have just posted our revised 2020 OWCN Training Calendar to the responder database, so don’t forget to check that out as well! A direct email to all responders with this information, plus some additional training course safety protocols, will hit your inbox soon. We hope to see some of you, from at least 6ft away wearing a mask, later this fall!

And if you are not currently an active OWCN responder but wish to learn more about how to become one, please send us an email at owcn@ucdavis.edu.

-The OWCN Management Team

And the next Oilapalooza will be – wait for it…

Scott, Greg, and I are on our way back from the latest Basic Responder Training at the Marine Wildlife Care Center, located on Humboldt State University’s campus in Arcata. The last time I was in Arcata was nearly 20 years ago for the predecessor of the BRT, which was called Advanced Supervisors Training. Interestingly, this was the first time I met Greg. We only know this because of photographic evidence – neither of us actually remembers meeting each other, but we have actually known each since 2001, not 2010.

The Basic Responder Training brought in members from Shasta Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, Humboldt State University, and a strong showing from Bird Ally X @ Humboldt Wildlife Care Center. We actually have a lot of Network members in this region. We had the chance to visit the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center and check out the new location of the Institute for Wildlife Studies – one of our hazing and collection Network members that is also based in Arcata.

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I forgot just how much is happening in this area, and just how beautiful it is. The drive up through the redwoods was stunning. We arrived early the day before the BRT, which gave us plenty of time to check out the incredible facilities of our hotel – the Best Western Plus, Humboldt Bay Inn located in Eureka – which has a solarium with a pool table, a swimming-pool-sized hot tub with a waterfall, and tikki bar with fire pits. Just a couple blocks away is old town Eureka, which has an incredible food Co-op and a lot of great restaurants.

You may be wondering right about now why I’m rambling about hotels and towns in this distant refuge behind the redwood curtain. That’s because this is where we’ll be hosting the next Oilapalooza, this October 16-17th!!! With the improved highways and direct flights from LA, access to this beautiful destination will be much easier for all of our member organizations.

As if the Network partners, natural beauty, and incredible wildlife (not to mention the spill history) of this region weren’t enough, we’ve already started planning for some incredible workshops, lectures, and hands-on experiences. Stay tuned for more on that. For now, save the date: October 16-17th2019. Additional information and registration details coming soon.

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Hope to see some of you in Humboldt County!!

~ Danene

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Danene Birtell – OWCN Readiness Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Basic Responder Training in the San Francisco Bay Area

On Monday, members of the OWCN management team led a Basic Responder Training (BRT) in Tiburon, California, at the Estuary and Ocean Science Center, a research and service organization of San Francisco State University.

BRT attendees represented OWCN member organizations from across the Bay Area, including the EOS Center, The Marine Mammal Center, Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA, the SPCA for Monterey County, Lindsay Wildlife Experience and the Greater Farallones Association. Newly hired OWCN management staff also participated.

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Our view of the San Francisco Bay during training.

After enjoying coffee and a beautiful view of the San Francisco Bay, the 22 BRT attendees focused on the objective of the day: Learn the core concepts and fundamental skills needed for oil spill response.

While participants already have established skills in animal care and previously completed the OWCN Core Webinar series providing basic information on oil spill response, BRT gives them the opportunity to walk through the response process firsthand and learn their roles in various spill settings.

“After this training, the volunteers are better equipped to jump in and help us respond to a spill immediately,” said Scott Buhl, OWCN responder specialist, who helped lead the training.

Basic Responder Training participants

The all-day event included sessions on human safety, animal handling and restraint, documentation, and the importance of resiliency — recognizing the need for self-care during chaotic emergency response. Participants also took part in spill response role-playing scenarios and a personal protective equipment (PPE) exercise.

By day’s end, attendees are considered “pre-trained volunteers.” When there is a spill, they are among the first to be called to help.

Basic Responder Training is offered five-to-six times a year throughout the state. Our next BRT event will be held March 12 in Arcata at Humboldt State University’s Marine Wildlife Care Center.

Thank you to the Estuary and Ocean Science Center for hosting this training, and for providing caffeine and sustenance to fuel our day!

– Kristin

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

 

10 Years Ago This Week…

Game-changing. Transformative. Heartbreaking. Many different words encapsulate the oiled wildlife response during, and readiness improvements subsequent to, the Cosco Busan incident in San Francisco Bay.

From the email wayback machine, 7 Nov 2007 @ 14:08hrs:
“Hi all – Just a quick note. The OWCN was activated this afternoon to respond to an allision of a container ship to the Bay Bridge this morning.  We have dispatched two teams of 2 people…to recon and assess wildlife impacts in the area.  At this point, it appears to be a fairly small spill in terms of volume, but has impacted the area around Pier 39, so public visibility and potential to impact birds and sea lions is moderate.  We are working directly with DFG-OSPR…and will have a better idea of the scope of response that will be needed later this afternoon. Let me know if you have questions or concerns. Thx! Mike”

Little did we know what the next several months of response, not to mention the ensuing decade of changes to readiness protocols, would come from this “fairly small spill”.

Today (8 Nov 2017) marks the 10-year anniversary of the day when oiled birds began to be collected by OWCN staff and volunteers and transported to the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care & Education Center. To honor and remember this event, I have written (and re-written) this blog post three different times – each with different emphases, information, and emotional attachments, as the event still triggers in me a variety of conflicting thoughts even to this day.

My first blog post was aimed to be a more general informational post, describing the event, what happened, the early confusion, why it happened, public reaction, and the resulting response efforts that occurred. However, over the past week there have been many insightful and factually accurate articles detailing this type of information, including a series of posts from NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration as well as me providing much of that information in the OWCN Blog on the five-year anniversary, so adding to the mix didn’t seem as valuable as other approaches. Besides, there is always Wikipedia.

My second blog post draft was intended to focus on the OWCN’s wildlife response efforts – the 1,084 live birds (of 31 species), the 1,854 dead birds (of 45 different species ), and the 1 live/6 dead mammals that were collected – as well as the overall impact estimates of, among other effects, more than 6,800 birds killed. However, again, there has been wonderful information provided by CDFW-OSPR, NOAA, and the other Trustees this week detailing the estimated losses and how these resources are being restored. So no reason to reiterate points that have been well told already.

My third draft was designed to highlight all of the changes that occurred within CA oiled wildlife response efforts immediately after Cosco Busan, including the addition of numerous wonderful Member Organizations, the OWCN officially being given the mandate to lead recovery (and later hazing) efforts on behalf of the State, revisions to protocols and procedures, increasing and expanding our pool of trained responders, further improving facilities, and the like. But, again, much of was covered previously by me and others, and, aside from showcasing the fact that the OWCN prides itself on a vigorous self-improvement policy (through active internal and external after-action efforts) after each and every incident, to me it didn’t convey the depth of emotions nor the excellent work of all Network Members.

So that leads me to this, the fourth and final draft of my blog post. I simply want to thank, from the bottom of my heart, each and every person that was involved with the wildlife response efforts that so affected us all 10 years ago in the SF Bay region. Your dedication to improving the lives of injured wildlife during this disaster, especially an incident caused by human error, is awe-inspiring, and the OWCN cannot put into words how much we value your time and involvement. I also wanted to thank the OWCN Management Team staff at UCD (both current as well as past) for taking our responsibility as seriously as I do. Lastly, I wanted to recognize one specific individual, the late Jay Holcomb of International Bird Rescue, for his lifelong dedication to marine birds that was exemplified in this event.

To honor as many people as possible that were involved in this massive undertaking, I have added below a slideshow of all the responders that I was able to photograph during the “33 Days of Oil and Soap” that was so eloquently captured by the late artist (and Cosco volunteer) Doug Ross in his T-shirt design above.

Again, thank you!

-Mike

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Off to a galaxy far far away…

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.

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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.

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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.

-Curt

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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

OWCN Member Organization Engagement

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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 spbuhl@ucdavis.edu.

Cheers to our amazing member orgs!

-Scott