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.


A successful summit

This past weekend we hosted at the first OWCN protocol summit. About 50 people, representing over 20 member organizations, met in Davis on Saturday and Sunday to talk about OWCN protocols and procedures.

On Saturday we listened to short presentations from various organizations on issues they identified as important to them. We split up into break-out sessions to discuss those issues, and then presented them to the larger group. Then everyone voted on the issues they felt were of highest priority. Volunteer working groups were formed to address each issue. We were so efficient we even finished a bit early!

Director Mike Ziccardi then spoke a bit about full deployment drills and there was a general discussion about how they work and what their goals ares. The day finished up with a reception.

On Sunday, we met at OWCN’s storage area, so that member organizations could see our response equipment and supplies. Lucky for us, the rain held off until about 11 o’clock!

I want to thank everyone who came and participated – many of you drove a long way in the rain! It was a productive meeting, with time to catch up with friends and talk about animals and emergency response. We even used it as an opportunity to practice signing into Better Impact, which qualifies it as a drill :-). Oh yeah, and there was beer . . . . what more could anyone want?




OWCN Oiled Wildlife Planning Summit

After much preparation and anticipation, the very first OWCN Oiled Wildlife Planning Summit is finally happening this weekend!  We are very excited to be hosting over 50 participants from our Network, including representatives from 22 Member Organizations plus a handful of affiliated agencies, including CDFW-OSPR and USFWS.

We briefly mentioned this new event a couple months back via a blog post but as a reminder, the main goal of the Oiled Wildlife Planning Summit is to assist in identifying areas of focus within OWCN protocols and procedures that will help move oiled wildlife response forward. Sunday will afford OWCN staff an opportunity to showcase our equipment storage facility with an emphasis on familiarizing participants with response equipment available to the Network during spill response.

We will gladly share a Summit update after this inaugural event.

Looking forward to a successful weekend of Network collaboration and enhancement.


Volunteer Program at OWCN

With the announcement of our new training program, I thought I’d take some time to explain the three types of Volunteers within the volunteer program of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

(1) Spontaneous Volunteers


In medium and larger spills we may ask the public for their help

Spontaneous Volunteers are not affiliated with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network prior to a spill. These are members of the public that see an ongoing spill in their area, and want to contribute to the effort. If there is a spill and we need volunteers, OWCN would send out announcements via OSPR and the media, and then sign Spontaneous Volunteers up for volunteer shifts. Typically, Spontaneous Volunteers have no prior experience working with animals or in spill response, but can provide a valuable service by helping with non-animal care activities, such as cleaning cages, administrative tasks, and preparing animal diets. Additionally, dedicated Spontaneous Volunteers may get on the job training to help out with animal care if needed. Normally we only utilize Spontaneous Volunteers in medium or larger size spills, and only after we have tapped into the OWCN volunteer pool.

Spontaneous Volunteers sometimes do have animal care experience, or are even volunteers with one of our Member Organizations, however, they have not registered as an OWCN volunteer in our database. Remember that it if you volunteer with one of our Member Organizations and want to participate in oiled wildlife response during an oil spill, you need to register as an OWCN volunteer before the start of a spill (contact the primary OWCN contact at your Member Organization for details on how to sign up).

(2) Affiliated Volunteers

NEW California Map shutterstock_135005765 [Converted]

OWCN Member Organizations

Affiliated Volunteers either work or volunteer at one of our 30+ Member Organizations around the state (check out our map by clicking here), and have registered in the OWCN Responder Database. These volunteers receive valued hands-on training just by doing their normal staff or volunteer work at their Member Organization. These people are easily identified for potential spill response because they are listed in our database, and will have the opportunity to sign up for volunteer shifts during active spill responses.

Typically, our Affiliated Volunteers do not choose to participate in our optional training program, or they take only some of the basic online classes. They are still very valuable to us during spill response, especially because they are pre-identified as potential responders in our database, allowing for quick communication and mobilization into a spill volunteer role, and tend to have animal care experience.

(3) Pre-Trained Volunteers


Volunteers wash birds during the Ventura Oiled Bird Incident

Pre-Trained Volunteers, like Affiliated Volunteers, work or volunteer at one of our 30+ Member Organizations around the state, and have registered in the OWCN Responder Database, making them easily identified by us as potential spill responders. They also gain valued hands on experience just by doing their normal work with their Member Organization. Unlike our Affiliated Volunteers, our Pre-Trained Volunteers will have completed both our Core webinar series and our upcoming new Basic Responder class. These extra trainings give our Pre-Trained Volunteers added experience and knowledge of how the OWCN operates during spill response. As a perk for taking our training courses, Pre-Trained Volunteers will have the opportunity to self-assign themselves to volunteer shifts during spill response, rather than waiting to be selected to volunteer like our other volunteers. Additionally, our Pre-Trained Volunteers will have the opportunity to take our advanced level training courses, where they will become eligible to respond as staff during a spill, if we need to fill positions.

If you have any questions about our volunteer program, or are interested in participating further, please email me at