Birds & Oil Spills

February 28, 2019 – Baton Rouge, LA

A Sea Grant oil spill science seminar in partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Birds & oil spills covered a variety of topics, including toxicological effects, impacts to marsh dwelling and migratory species, as well as response, rehabilitation, and monitoring efforts.

To read the agenda, click here. Scroll down to view presentation videos.

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Emily Maung-Douglass and Barret Fortier, Welcome and introduction

Emily Maung-Douglass of Louisiana Sea Grant and Barret Fortier of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service welcome participants to Birds & oil spills and provide insights into the basis for the event.

Kendal Harr, URIKA, LLC  Toxicology

Description: Oil essentially burns tissues by causing oxidative damage (the inability of the body to naturally counteract or detoxify the production of free radicals) in birds and other species.  Kendall covered how low-dose concentrations of artificially weathered MC252 crude oil causes damage to multiple organ systems with a focus on the cardiovascular system (heart) in cormorants (Phalacrocorax auratus).

Sabrina Taylor, Louisiana State University AgCenter — Seaside Sparrows

Description: Seaside Sparrows are a very common bird found only in salt marshes and a top predator in the marsh. Sabrina discussed how carbon from oil was incorporated in sparrow feathers and prey, how an important gene responded in sparrows exposed to oil, and the effect of the oil spill on diet, as well as important effects from a hurricane landfall during the study.

Jessica Renee Henkel, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council Migratory birds

Description: Jessica focused on the impacts of the DWH Oil Spill on migratory birds in the Gulf of Mexico and highlighted some ecological considerations in spill response management.

Morning panel discussion

Description: In this morning panel discussion at the “Birds & Oil Spills” seminar, guest speakers Kendal Harr (URIKA, LLC), Sabrina Taylor (LSU AgCenter), and Jessica Renee Henkel (Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council) responded to questions and talked about oil spill issues related to avian toxicology, seaside sparrows, and migratory birds in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rhonda Murgatroyd, Wildlife Response Services, LLC — Oiled wildlife response

Description: Rhonda paints a picture of oiled wildlife response, with a focus on avian species, using photos from past response efforts.  The audience came to understand that this effort is much more than what the Dawn commercials depict, taking a journey from activation of wildlife responders to release of animals back into their natural environment.

Laird Henkel, California Deptartment of Fish and Wildlife — Oiled wildlife response

Description: There can occasionally be disagreement about how we should respond to oiled wildlife.  Laird reviews several arguments for why we should attempt to recover and rehabilitate wildlife affected by oil spills, including a review of published studies on post-spill survival of rehabilitated birds.

Michael Seymour, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and FisheriesBird abundance, colony distribution, and targeted habitat restoration in Louisiana

Description: Louisiana’s coastal marshes and islands provide valuable habitat for resident and migratory waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, marsh birds, and others, who are in critical need of protection.  Michael discussed Louisiana’s bird species, distribution of colonies, and targeted habitat restoration.

Gina Muhs Saizan and Eva Diana Windhoffer, Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office —  Oil Spills and Birds – Response to Restoration

Description: Gina and Eva of the  Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office (LOSCO) provided an overview of how agencies respond to and assess injury to birds from oil spills and how Natural Resource Damage Assessments (NRDA) result in restoration projects.

Jeff Gleason, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Program and Gulf Restoration Office GoMMAPPS – establishing the importance of the Gulf of Mexico to North American seabirds and beyond

Description: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) partnered with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to monitor seabirds, marine mammals, and sea turtles, respectively, through funding provided by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). Jeff covered the GoMMAPPS Seabird Project: background, sampling frame, and some preliminary results. To learn more about GoMMAPPS, click here.

Afternoon panel discussion

In this afternoon panel discussion at the “Birds & Oil Spills” seminar, Rhonda Murgatroyd (Wildlife Response Services, LLC), Laird Henkel (California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife), Michael Seymour (Louisiana Dept. of Fish & Wildlife), Gina Muhs Saizan and Eva Diana Windhoffer (Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office), and Jeffrey Gleason (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) answered questions about topics ranging from wildlife response, rehabilitation, restoration, to establishing the importance of the Gulf of Mexico to seabirds.

A great day to learn about birds and oil!

Featured photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy, taken by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stumberg