Did you know that 65% of OWCN’s registered responders are volunteers? That means not only do they volunteer to participate in the oil spill program, they also volunteer their time at their Member Organization.
These are the people who save the animals. They do the hard work of cleaning and feeding. They teach friends and strangers how to live beside their wild neighbors. They prepare for the disasters we hope will never happen, and are ready to take action to minimize the impacts of those disasters. Although it varies depending on the spill, it isn’t uncommon for our volunteers to put in thousands, if not tens of thousands, of hours in during a spill response.
There are as many reasons to volunteer as there are volunteers. But the one common thread is that they do all of this not because they’re being paid, but because they believe the work is important. It means something to them, and they are taking action. There’s something special about the work people do when they’re driven by passion. It’s powerful. It changes things.
Our world would look a lot different – and a lot worse – without that spirit of volunteerism. The fields of wildlife rehabilitation and oiled wildlife response began with volunteers; with people from all sorts of backgrounds who saw the wildlife suffering from human impacts and decided to do something about it. That impulse continues to this day, reflected in the driven and empathetic people who support the mission of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and the work of all our Member Organizations.
National Volunteer Week (April 15-21) is our collective opportunity to celebrate the act of volunteering. It’s also a chance to attempt to demonstrate how absurdly grateful we are to the volunteers who are already working on our community’s behalf. Fireworks scare the animals, and really can’t be seen by all the OWCN volunteers (who are spread across the entire state of California), so we had to come up with something a little different. We thought instead we’d shine a light on a few of the people who are making a difference across the state.
If you find yourself inspired and want to make a difference by volunteering, we would love to have you! If you already work or volunteer for one of our Member Organizations, just ask your supervisor to help you register. If not, the first step is to decide which OWCN Member Organization you’d like to get involved with. You can find a map and list here, on the OWCN website. Each organization has its own application process, which you should be able to find on their website (linked on that list). If you have any questions or run into trouble, you can contact the OWCN Management Team by emailing owcn AT ucdavis.edu.
In honor of National Volunteer Week, we asked our member orgs to nominate a volunteer who deserved a special shout-out for their hard work and contributions to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and the overall well-being of wildlife. Here are some of their nominations:
TERRI OBA (volunteer for 15+ years)
Her love for wildlife rehabilitation began as a wildlife volunteer at the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach. She was always drawn to avian patients, particularly the seabirds—and seabirds quickly became her specialization. You could even call it a passion!
She currently volunteers at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. She started in 2010 as an Exhibit Interpreter in the Education Department, and is now in the Husbandry Department working with Magellanic penguins.
Terri on why she loves being a volunteer on the OWCN team:
“It gives me such an amazing opportunity to be a part of an incredible team. It is truly an honor to work with wildlife. We are making a difference!”
© The Marine Mammal Center
SUE HAWLEY & RUSTY ROSENBERG
(volunteers for 7 years)
Wife-husband duo Sue & Rusty volunteer with two OWCN member organizations: they started with The Marine Mammal Center in 2009 and volunteer in multiple departments including rescue, education and animal care. Their participation with Peninsula Humane Society’s Wildlife Rehab Department began in 2016. Sue completed her Wildlife Internship in 2017 and will be mentoring new interns as well as advancing her skills with intake and care this year. Rusty plans on completing his internship this year.
Their love and curiosity of wildlife drove them to volunteer their time with OWCN, TMMC, and PHS.
Sue & Rusty on why they love being a volunteer on the OWCN team:
“In addition to fulfilling our desires to be lifelong learners, we also feel like we are doing our small part to set the example to be the change while making a difference for wildlife.”
JEN LEVINE (volunteer for 8 years)
Jen Levine has been volunteering with Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute (CIMWI) since 2008 and has served as a seasonal employee since 2011. CIMWI serves both Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in California as a marine mammal rescue, rehabilitation, research and education non-profit.
In 2010 Jen became an OWCN volunteer through CIMWI as a member organization. Her first experiences rescuing wildlife were as a child in the park across the street from her house. When she would find injured birds and squirrels she took them to the local wildlife rehabilitation center. When she was 10 years old, she took a trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago where she first saw and fell in love with California sea lions, which immediately became her favorite animal! Jen now manages stranding response as well as animal care and health for CIMWI.
Jen on why she loves being a volunteer on the OWCN team:
“I enjoy participating in OWCN conferences and drills to further my preparedness and skill sets to help oiled animals of all species should the need arise.”