Bird rescue group celebrates 40 years with eco-focused online curriculum

April 20 is the one year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Estimates indicate it was 20 times larger than the Exxon-Valdez spill in 1989. With assessment of the damage results just barely beginning to be understood, the economic cost is already in the tens of billions of dollars. The effects on the marine wildlife are often shown in the heart-wrenching pictures of birds and animals forlornly covered in thick, slimy gunk, unable to move freely and destined to die if not cleaned up.

It is for these animals, particularly the waterfowl, that Jay Holcomb is working tirelessly to educate students and teachers about ecology and damage control after an oil spill disaster.  It is an area he knows well, having been introduced to bird clean-up efforts in 1971, fresh out of high school.   The spill was in San Francisco Bay, and Jay had volunteered to help with the rescue efforts.  The big take away that the project leaders discovered, is that they were virtually clueless to the best ways to save the wildlife. Over 7000 birds died, with only 300 surviving.  Out of that “well-intentioned, but misguided” effort, the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) (now known as International Bird Rescue) was founded, and Jay became an integral part of the organization.

The primary goals of IBRRC were developing oiled wildlife cleaning and rehabilitation techniques, promoting ongoing research in this field and providing oiled wildlife response capabilities. Since 1971, the team has responded to over 200 domestic and international oil spills, dealing with over 140 species of wild birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Although there have been many times that number of incidences. IBRRC only responds to those with birds to be rescued in places that can afford the clean up.  The Exxon-Valdez  and the Deepwater Horizon rescue projects are part of the portfolio of Jay Holcomb’s growing expertise in animal rehabilitation.

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