Birds & Oil Spills

Thursday, February 28, 2019 – 8:30 AM-3 PM
Louisiana Department of Fish & Wildlife (LDWF)
2000 Quail Dr., Baton Rouge, LA 70808

Birds & Oil Spills is a Sea Grant oil spill science seminar in partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The audience will learn about a variety of topics related to oil spills and birds. This includes toxicological effects, impacts to marsh dwelling and migratory species, as well as response, rehabilitation, and monitoring efforts. As with all of our seminars, it will be FREE and open to the public. It will also be live-streamed as a webinar for those who cannot attend in person.

To register for the event, click here.

Please click the link below to join the webinar the day of the event:

Sound streams through the computer with the webinar. However, if you need to dial in, you may use iPhone one-tap : US: +16468769923,,313522444# or +14086380968,,313522444#
Or telephone, dial (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 646 876 9923 or +1 408 638 0968 or +1 669 900 6833
Webinar ID: 313 522 444
International numbers also available at

Featured speakers:

Kendal Harr, URIKA, LLC
Subject area: 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.  This presentation will cover 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) .

Bio: Kendal Harr, DVM, MS, DACVP, a Cornell graduate, practiced for three years in small animal and exotic species before doing a clinical pathology residency, earning her masters, and becoming the associate director for the aquatic animal health program at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine.  From 2012-2015 she was one of the co -PIs on the USFWS led Avian Toxicity initiative to understand damage induced in birds by trace, light, and moderate oiling of DWH weathered crude oil. She currently owns her own research and diagnostic pathology practice that has a focus on quality assurance in veterinary medicine.

Sabrina Taylor, Louisiana State University AgCenter
Subject area: Seaside Sparrows

Description: Seaside Sparrows are a very common bird found only in salt marshes and a top predator in the marsh. The speaker will discuss 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. During the course of the study, Hurricane Isaac made landfall: important effects from this will also be covered.

Bio: Sabrina Taylor is originally from Canada where she did her BS at the University of Victoria in British Columbia and her MS at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She moved to New Zealand for her PhD, returned to Canada to do a postdoc at the University of British Columbia, and then came to LSU where she greatly enjoys the diversity of the animal and plant life as well as the wonderful food.

Jessica Renee Henkel, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council
Subject area: Migratory birds

Description: This presentation will focus on the impacts of the DWH Oil Spill on migratory birds in the Gulf of Mexico and highlight some ecological considerations in spill response management.

Bio: Dr. Jessica R. Henkel serves as the Science Advisor and Coordinator for the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council). Created by the RESTORE Act of 2012 the RESTORE Council is a federal agency responsible for helping to restore and protect the natural resources, ecosystems, and economy of the Gulf Coast. Prior to her federal government service, Jessica completed her B.A. at Stony Brook University and her M.S. at the University of New Orleans. She received her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Tulane University, where she investigated how environmental changes and habitat degradation are impacting the coastal habitats of the Gulf of Mexico and the effects these changes are having on the bird populations that migrate through them.

Rhonda Murgatroyd, Wildlife Response Services, LLC
Subject area: Oiled wildlife response

Description: This talk will attempt to paint a picture of oiled wildlife response, with a focus on avian species, using photos from past response efforts.  The audience will come 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.

Bio: Rhonda Murgatroyd is the owner and managing director of Wildlife Response Services, LLC located in the Houston/Galveston area. She has been involved in wildlife rehabilitation and oiled wildlife response, including over fifty spills of varying impact since 2007, for the past twenty years. She works with several rehabilitation groups and area veterinarians along the Gulf Coast and inland areas. Ms. Murgatroyd has filled various roles in several large-scale emergency responses, consults with industry and private entities regarding site specific contingency planning, and from April 2010 through August 2011 served as Wildlife Branch Director for the Deepwater Horizon Incident.  Ms. Murgatroyd and her team possess a diverse and high level of experience and are prepared to respond to any wildlife incident with a premier network of professionals.

Laird Henkel, California Deptartment of Fish and Wildlife

Subject area: Oiled wildlife response

Description:  There can occasionally be disagreement about how we should respond to oiled wildlife.  This presentation will review 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.

Bio: Laird Henkel is a Senior Environmental Scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Office of Spill Prevention and Response.  Laird helps oversee response to oiled wildlife in California and manages the Department’s Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care & Research Center in Santa Cruz.  He has a B.A. in Biology from U.C. Santa Cruz and an M.S. in Marine Science from Cal State’s Moss Landing Marine Labs.  During the DWH response, Laird assisted with the Natural Resource Damage Assessment as part of the team conducting aerial photographic surveys of coastal bird breeding colonies.

Michael Seymour, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Subject area: Bird 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.  In fact, the critical need for the protection and restoration of these habitats is readily demonstrated by the abundance of nesting species. Louisiana is responsible for significant proportions of the US populations of several coastal species such as Sandwich Tern, Wilson’s Plover, and Seaside Sparrow.  Bird species’ richness and abundance, distribution of colonies, and targeted habitat restoration will be discussed.

Bio: Raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Michael developed a very strong interest in native wildlife, particularly birds; he has been an avid birder for almost 30 years.  Michael graduated from Louisiana State University in 2001 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and again in 2007 with a Masters in Entomology (thesis: Effect of Red Imported Fire Ant on the Nesting Success of Northern Bobwhite). Upon graduating, he accepted the position of Nongame Ornithologist for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Natural Heritage Program (renamed Wildlife Diversity Program in 2018), which facilitates research, monitoring, and conservation of Louisiana’s at-risk species.  His recent projects include aerial surveys for waterbird nesting colonies and Bald Eagles, as well as, surveys for nesting shorebirds and secretive marsh birds.  Most recently, Michael and his colleagues deployed a coast-wide network of VHF receiver stations for wildlife tracking.  When not birding or enjoying time with his family, Michael spends his time woodworking.

Gina Muhs Saizan and Eva Diana Windhoffer, Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office (LOSCO)
Subject area: Oil Spills and Birds – Response to Restoration

Description: The audience will get 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. The goal of NRDA is to compensate the public for injury to natural resources resulting from an oil spill.  The Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office (LOSCO) relies on baseline/life history data of birds to determine injuries to oiled birds and their habitats, and to determine what services are needed to restore for those injuries. Ecological service losses for bird and their habitats can be restored for through a variety of restoration types such as habitat creation/enhancement, protection, acquisition, and stocking of fauna.

Bios: Gina (on left) is a Louisiana native and received her BS in Marine Biology from Nicholls State University. She has over 20 years in response and resource management. Gina has previously worked as a responder for the Texas General Land Office, LDWF’s Natural Heritage Program, private consulting and environmental compliance monitoring, as well as aquaculture management for Bioassay tests.  Gina has been with LOSCO for 17 years, where she works as a Damage Assessment Program Manager.

Eva (on right) was born in Hungary but grew up in Maryland. She received her BS in Natural Resources Management from the University of Maryland and her MS in Marine and Environmental Biology from Nicholls State University. Prior to working at LOSCO, most of Eva’s work experience involved bird nest monitoring and management. She has worked with a number of bird species including Whooping Cranes, Piping Plovers, Clapper Rails, Snowy Plovers, Royal/Sandwich Terns, and Black Skimmers.

Jeff Gleason, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Program and Gulf Restoration Office
Subject area:
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). Fieldwork for this project was initiated in 2017 and will continue into 2020. The USFWS is conducting a combination of nearshore (out to 15 nautical miles) aerial surveys using USFWS amphibious Kodiak aircraft in conjunction with seabird observers aboard NOAA vessels of opportunity. The spatial frame is from roughly Brownsville, TX to the Florida Keys and out to the EEZ. The presentation will briefly cover some information on DWH NRDAR Bird Restoration with the bulk of the presentation covering the GoMMAPPS Seabird Project: background, sampling frame, and some preliminary results. To learn more about GoMMAPPS, click here.

Bio: Jeff received his Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD (1992) and completed a Master of Science at South Dakota State University (1997) in Wildlife Management where he studied survival of resident giant Canada geese (Branta canadensis maxima). He completed a PhD in Zoology (2003) from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada, where he studied reproductive performance and behavior of breeding Southern James Bay Canada geese (B. c. interior) in the presence and absence of lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) on Akimiski Island, Nunavut; supervised by Dr. C. Davison Ankney. His first permanent federal appointment was as a Ecologist/Biologist with the Minerals Management Service, Environmental Studies Section in the Alaska Regional Office, Anchorage, AK (2004-2007). The position included review of avian and marine mammal NEPA sections, as well as project management and oversight on 9 agency-funded projects (~$2.9M). After that, he took a position as the Asst. Pacific Flyway Representative for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Migratory Bird Management in Portland, OR (2007-2008). After that, he accepted a position as a Wildlife Biologist at the Kulm Wetland Management District in Kulm, ND (2008-2010). Following the position in ND, he accepted a position as a Ecologist/Biologist with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), Gulf of Mexico Regional Office in New Orleans, LA (2010-2012). In 2012, he accepted a position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alabama Ecological Services Field Office in Daphne, AL as the GCPO LCC Science Liaison (2012-2014). Presently, he is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Gulf of Mexico Migratory Bird Coordinator with the Service’s Migratory Bird Program and Gulf Restoration Team. He was previously stationed at the SE Louisiana (SELA) NWR Complex in Lacombe, LA, but is now at the Lower Suwanee NWR office south of Chiefland, FL. With these more recent positions, the focus has been on the value, relevance, and rigor of avian monitoring and clear linkages to decision-making, in particular to bird restoration projects. He serves as the Co-Chair of the Gulf of Mexico Avian Monitoring Network (GoMAMN); a partnership-driven SDM-based approach to avian monitoring in the GoM. More recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received funding from the BOEM as part of the Gulf of Mexico Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species (GoMMAPPS). The USFWS serves as the lead agency responsible for seabird monitoring and he is the USFWS Technical Lead for this project. The GoMMAPPS will monitor seabirds (USFWS), marine mammals (NOAA), and sea turtles (USGS) over the next several years (2017~2020) and data generated from this effort will fill information gaps and provide data to inform decision-makers related to offshore energy development in the GoM.



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