There’s an App for that…

As Christine shared via our last post, one of our 2017 goals is to implement OWRMD into wildlife spill response operations.  Having electronic medical records is a huge step forward for both rapid and efficient information flow, as well as an immediate tool for analyzing our processes and methods in a quantitative fashion.

To ensure that our care side of operations doesn’t have all the fun, our OWCN field operations staff have been working with our colleagues at the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) in developing and refining a smart phone application that will aid in starting that electronic data gathering process from the moment we collect oiled wildlife.  This new tool will eventually replace our paper data forms, allowing wildlife recovery responders to head out with essential capture equipment and iPhones preloaded with the Wildlife Recovery application.


The key pieces of information that can be gathered via the Wildlife Recovery app include:

  • GPS coordinates
  • Type (Bird, marine mammal, herptile, etc)
  • SubType (Pelican, Gull, etc)
  • Additional notes (such as species, if known)
  • Location Description (extra info regarding location of capture)
  • Condition (alive or dead)
  • Photos
  • Scanning QR Codes

That last piece of information may seem odd (aren’t QR codes used to scan my items at the grocery store?), but in fact we are working with them as unique identifiers for our animal patients.  So essentially we can gather key info, snap a photo, and scan a QR code pre-printed on a sticker that we in turn can attach to the carrier.  Then, upon arrival at the primary care facility, care staff can scan the QR code which will automatically identify that animal and connect it with all that key info, GPS coordinates and photos within the OWRMD system.  Pretty cool, huh?

But wait…there’s more.  On top of digitalizing the data gathering process from start to finish, it also provides an easy way to track our efforts through the app.  As recovery responders search beaches or ravines for oiled wildlife, the app tracks their movements, including any points in which they collect oiled wildlife or make notable observations.  This creates a track map that is very helpful in summarizing our efforts and identifying any gaps in coverage.


And while there is much more to share on this, the details will have to wait until we finalize the application and begin training responders on its use in the field next year.

Figured a futuristic post would fit well as we head into the future year of 2017.  Hope you all have a wonderful last few days of 2016!


The Miracle of OWRMD

Unlike my six-year-old, whose list to Santa is comprised mostly of toy weapons, my wishes for the New Year are less tangible. Less war, less poverty, less hunger, less deforestation, fewer emerging diseases, fewer extinctions, lower carbon emissions, no oil spills . . . . you get the idea. Given the current state of the world, it would probably take a miracle for any of those wishes to come true. But one miracle I am counting on is the promise of OWRMD!

Many, many years ago, Mike realized that an electronic medical record keeping system would be a huge boost to animal care during a spill response. After a LOT of work, angst, pain, blood, sweat, tears, and electronic device purchases, we are close to having a truly game-changing system in OWRMD, thanks to Devin Dombrowski and the Wild Neighbors Database Project (a non-profit that is already doing great work providing a free online medical records option for wildlife rehabilitators – follow the link to learn more or to donate).

OWRMD is a medical records database system that is purpose-built for the care of animals during an oil spill response, and it has been worth waiting for.  OWRMD is not exactly the same as the WRMD that is currently used in dozens of rehabilitation centers, but it is closely related. Many operations will be the same, and if you are comfortable with WRMD, getting comfortable with OWRMD will be a snap. It’s intuitive and has a lovely interface design, so even those who are not used to electronic medical records will become accustomed to it in no time.

It’s not quite finished yet, but for those of you who already use WRMD, you can understand how great a tool OWRMD will be. In the coming months, look out for opportunities to learn more about OWRMD, such as participating in drills or specific training sessions. At first, OWRMD will be for birds only, but we will be integrating other species into it as we move forward.

This holiday season, be safe, be healthy, be happy  . . . . and be thankful for whatever miracles come your way!



Wildlife Summit: Next Steps

SummitAssault_logo_wCircleAs Curt and Chris wrote about in recent blogs, the first ever OWCN Wildlife Planning Summit was a true success, with about 50 people from 20 Member Organizations participating.  So, what are the next steps?  Well, since the Summit ended, we have accomplished several things, including: summarizing the discussions of the 5 workgroups that were established during the Summit, identifying of Chairs that will be responsible for ensuring that goals are met and timelines are adhered to, and developing a set of guidelines that will serve as an aid to the workgroup Chairs.

Now that we have everything in place, it is time to officially launch our post-Summit work!  As part of that, we would like to reach out to the entire Network to invite participation in the process. During the Summit, the 50 participants signed up to be a part of one of the workgroups.  In addition, other names were written down of people (not attending) that were thought to be important to include in the process. But of course, not everyone from the Network was at the Summit, so if you are interested in helping, now is your chance to sign up!

Before jumping in, you need to know that there are several levels of involvement depending on how much time you are willing to (and able to) commit:

Low – Willing to provide comments/review 1-2 products that come out of the workgroup.

Medium – Willing to provide comments/review all products that come out of the workgroup.

High – Participation in at least monthly conference calls and assisting in developing and reviewing workgroup products.

If you have interest and time, please contact the Chair/Chairs of the workgroups listed below (either directly to them via email or to us at and we will forward) to offer your assistance, and specify what level of involvement you are willing to provide. Remember, it is up to each Chair(s) to approve workgroup participants (we obviously don’t want 250 people participating in monthly conference calls!).

Below is a list of each workgroup, the Chair or co-Chairs, and a brief summary of issues/goals that each break-out group identified during the Summit. However, the final list of goals will be up to each group, once they begin their work:

  1. Avian Protocols, Chair: Michelle Bellizzi
    • Development/clarification of protocol use requirements for individual oiled birds.
    • Species-specific protocols for how best to care for inland animals.
  1. Initial Response, Chair: Jennifer Levine
    • Development of systems and practices that can help lead field responses for initial (first 24 hrs) operational period of a spill.
  1. Green Response, co-Chairs: Dru Devlin & Marie Travers
    • Development of conservation-oriented guidelines for oil spill response (such as carpooling & re-use/recycling programs like using re-usable water bottles and coffee cups).
    • Resources that can be used to prevent water waste and low-energy pool technology such as Eco-pumps for bird pens during a spill response.
  1. chain-of-custody-summit-10-16img_0835Marine Mammal Documentation, co-Chairs: David Bard & Barbie Halaska
    • Development of a more user-friendly and consistent ID numbering system.
    • Work out Chain of Custody what-ifs.
  1. Facility Activation, co-Chairs: Tamar Danufsky & Jody Westberg
    • Clarify OWCN facility activation process, including levels of activation.
    • Define activation terms for facility and what does “activation” entail.
    • Develop facility activation plan checklist based on level of response.
    • Share existing facility response/changeover plans.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions, and thank you in advance for helping to improve OUR Oiled Wildlife Care Network!


Two New Field Stabilization Reminder Webinars

In case it’s been awhile since you have taken the Field Stabilization (FS) In-person Training and you feel like you could use a memory boost before responding to the next spill or drill, two new FS Reminder webinars are now available through the OWCN Responder Database. You can sign up within your Responder Profile using the “Opportunities” tab. These webinars are designed to be a reminder for the FS In-person Training.

Field Stabilization Reminder Webinar: Intake Paperwork

Intro slide for FS Admit Paperwork webinar

Intro slide for FS Admit Paperwork webinar

Course Description:

This module reviews use of FS Job Aids to fill out routine Admit paperwork at a FS Site during oil spills. Participants use an example case & FS Job Aids to fill out a FS Census Log and FS Oiled Bird Stabilization Form. During the webinar, you will practice filling out forms associated with performing an admit examination and initial treatments for an average oiled bird at a FS Site

Reviewing assigning FS Census numbers

Reviewing assigning FS Census numbers

Field Stabilization Level 2 Reminder Webinar: Bird Board

Intro slide for FS Bird Board webinar

Intro slide for FS Bird Board webinar

Course Description:

This module reviews use of FS Job Aids to fill out and use the Bird Board to manage movement of birds through the MASH (FS trailer) during oil spills. Participants use example cases & FS Job Aids to fill out: FS Census Log, FS Oiled Bird Stabilization Forms, Bird Board & Food/Fluid Request Forms. During the webinar, you will practice organizing flow of birds through a FS trailer and associated paperwork by using the Bird Board.

Intro slide for FS: Admit Paperwork webinar

Intro slide for FS: Admit Paperwork webinar

NOTE: These webinars are NOT designed to be a stand-alone trainings and do NOT replace the In-person FS training requirement. Their purpose is to complement the FS In-person training and serve as reminders to FS responders who may have completed the In-Person training some time ago.

We hope that you enjoy the updated interactive format!

Interactive slide from Bird Board webinar

Interactive slide from Bird Board webinar

Happy webinaring!



Re-evaluating Oilapalooza

I know, I know… super early to see that word up there! We only just finished the Summit! We’ve got trainings, and a full deployment drill, and a whole busy season before it’s time for Oilapalooza.

But yes, Oilapalooza planning is already underway here at headquarters.  It’s not uncommon for us to start searching for the next site a year or more ahead of time, but currently our planning goes a little deeper than that.


Hands-on lesson on sea turtles

Oilapalooza has been a lot of things over the years, and it’s always been a lot of things packed into one fall weekend. It began as a way to bring the Network together, raise awareness of all the great organizations and knowledge and people that area spread all over the state.  It has been a chance to get advanced hands-on training in animal care, and an opportunity to showcase new and emerging science that affects the care and treatment of oiled wildlife. We’ve used it as an opportunity for responders to obtain some cross-training and exposure to areas of the response they might not normally see. And there is usually a rare social element, as old friends and colleagues from all over California meet again, exchange knowledge, launch new collaborations, and have a bit of fun.


2013 Oilapalooza banquet

Over the last few years – and really, for our entire history – OWCN has been growing and expanding.  A lot of the more recent expansion came with the addition of inland response to the OWCN mandate. Since that happened, the OWCN Management Team has been working particularly hard to re-evaluate a lot of how the Network runs, and how we can improve it to support the increased responsibilities that come along with that expanded mandate.

Part of that is the new training program that we’re in the midst of rolling out.  So this seems like a natural opportunity to step back and really evaluate what Oilapalooza brings to our program as an event, why it is so special, and how we can preserve and enhance


The OWCN Management Team has  fun at the evening poster session

the value it has moving forward. That doesn’t mean Oilapalooza will be completely different! But it does mean that there might be some really valuable modifications we can make, so that this event better serves today’s Network, and we want to entertain that possibility.

The OWCN Management Team has been having some internal conversations on this, and last week we solicited input from our responders in the form of a short online survey.  Thank you to everyone who responded!  Your thoughts and opinions and experiences are invaluable to this process.

I’ve crunched the numbers, and I wanted to share a little bit of the information we gathered from this survey for those of you who are interested. So, warning! The rest of this post is a little numbers-heavy. 🙂

The 2016 State-of-the-Oilapalooza Survey Summary

A huge percentage of those who responded to the survey want to attend Oilapalooza in the future (86%), with the remaining stating they might want to attend, depending on cost, time, and whether they feel the need to make room for new attendees.

When asked why they want to attend, what previous attendees found valuable about the experience, and what those who haven’t yet had a chance to attend are most excited about, the answers were incredibly consistent:

  1. It’s a great opportunity to learn
  2. Networking and socializing with other responders and organizations is valuable
  3. Provides a chance to keep current and receive updates on research, new techniques & technologies that affect oil spill response

While these were the top three reasons cited, among long-time attendees (those who have attended 3 or more Oilapaloozas), there was also an additional appreciation for the chance to get a feel for the big picture of spill response, receive cross-training and learn about species, situations, and response areas that they do not specialize in and might not otherwise be exposed to.  On the opposite end, those who have not yet attended an Oilapalooza, and those who have attended only one or two Oilapaloozas, are particularly excited about the chance to learn and practice hands-on skills during the lab sessions.

We also received a good number of comments, many of which included suggestions for changing up Oilapalooza’s structure. Here are a (very) few of the excellent comments we received:

“I really enjoy the various lectures and learning more about the effects of oil on birds long term. I feel pretty capable when it comes to washing oiled birds, having done this a lot (on a smaller scale than an oil spill, but regularly with natural oil seep contaminated birds), but having a refresher every year or so is also extremely beneficial. I also always enjoy meeting everyone and am so happy to see the dedication so many people have when it comes to mobilizing and heading out to oil spills around the world.”

“I’m not sure how you would address this as you have such a large number of attendees and you’re trying to be as inclusive as you can, which is appreciated. However, if there was a way to separate people based on experience during certain labs/practicals that would be nice. Then people could get either more advanced help or a better grasp on the basics without having to jockey for attention.”

“I don’t think Oilapalooza is really about preparing the Network for spill response – that happens thru the training experience. Oilapalooza is about bigger picture stuff – where things are going in our field and keeping in touch with other participants we don’t normally get to see, since we are located in different parts of the state.”

“More exposure to non feathered animals we might be dealing with in the event of an inland spill. If there is an inland spill we need info on how we will be responding.”

“I have thoroughly enjoyed past Oilapaloozas, and have come away from them feeling re-invigorated for spill response. Training is an essential part of the OWCN, and the chance to complete training requirements at Oilapalooza is very beneficial.”

Thank you once again to all of you who responded to this survey, as you can see, the Management Team has a lot to consider as we move through the re-evaluating process in the coming weeks. Look for more information about Oilapalooza in Spring 2017 when we’ll be sending out a Save the Date.

In the mean time, take care of yourselves and keep up all your good work!


Hazing and Field Ops Update

Since my last blog in August, our field ops group (Kyra, Scott and me) has continued to be busy with the continuous work of preparing different equipment and techniques for future inland spills, while retaining our readiness for marine spills.  Part of the marine side has been working with Greg Frankfurter on researching marine mammal hazing strategies and equipment.  On the inland side, more equipment has been purchased for both hazing and capture of a wider array of species.


Field Ops Trailer in Bakersfield, CA.

In addition, we are steadily looking at ways to have well integrated field operations with both hazing and recovery capabilities in as many teams as possible.  We have outfitted a total of 6 field ops trailers with gear for both hazing and recovery so that field teams have as much flexibility as possible and have the ability to fill hazing or recovery roles as needed.  These trailers are stationed around the state: Arcata, Alturas, Oroville, Davis, Bakersfield, and Irvine.

During the Wildlife Planning Summit held in mid-October, new ideas emerged relating to field ops, and that generation of ideas and feedback from the Member Orgs is exactly what we had hoped would come out of the Summit.  All input was greatly appreciated and we look forward to working with the various working groups over the next year on the various ideas that were brought up at the Summit.

Last week I was in Irvine and this week I will be in Davis, conducting two specialized trainings of OWCN / Wildlife Health Center staff and Institute for Wildlife Studies (IWS) personnel in pyrotechnic deployment for hazing.  I am doing these trainings as mini-drills to make sure that our thought processes are wide and that everyone is familiar with and thinking about all the tools available, not just pyrotechnics.  Strategies will obviously be different for both hazing and capture depending on the specifics of a given spill, so it is important that we practice thinking through the different scenarios.

Because we need to operate under the University of California regulations, they limit the personnel who can directly handle and deploy pyrotechnics, so this particular hazing training is not offered widely to all members of the Network at this time.  However, having other people within the Network that are familiar with non-pyrotechnic hazing tools and able to assist with other tasks, including pyrotechnic deployment, is still important.


Drone at the “Boneyard”

One exciting thing about the upcoming training this week is that it will also include an IWS drone demonstration of drone capabilities for use within field response. This is not your typical toy drone, rather it’s a 50 lb super fancy drone, with about a 4 ft wing span.  Not only does it have an infrared camera (to be able to spot wildlife at night), but it has a Global Positioning System (GPS) that can fly itself back to the pilot, a tracker (in case it goes down in a remote location), as well as a myriad of other cool features.  We will report more on this in a future blog.  Stay tuned!



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.


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.