Among the severe threats confronting birds in Texas is the risk of massive oil-spills. The Deepwater Horizon catastrophe has reminded us all of the need to be able to treat oiled birds rapidly and effectively. To that end, the Schubot Center is working with the Wildlife Center of Texas and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to increase the speed and effectiveness of our responses.
The College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences now has a dedicated mobile laboratory that can be taken to appropriate locations on the Texas Coast or elsewhere. We are therefore able to wash and treat oiled birds in situations where time is of the essence. We believe that it will greatly enhance the speed and effectiveness of our responses and thus save more bird’s lives.
The second major issue with respect to oil spills is the need to treat oiled birds appropriately. Ingested oil does many terrible things to birds and we need to ensure that we apply appropriate, scientifically proven treatments. To this end dr. Heatley and her colleagues are sampling bird species found on the Texas Coast such as ducks, pelicans and herons, in order to determine their normal blood values. Avian clinical pathology is in its infancy but it is abundantly clear that bird physiology differs greatly between species. Laboratory test results that appear normal in one species may be profoundly abnormal in another. If we are treating an oiled bird we need to know normal blood values in order to determine the optimal method of treating the birds. It will also differ significantly based on the severity and duration of a bird’s exposure to oil and the type of oil involved.
These studies need financial support as we establish a normal data-base for these birds, and mobilize our resources and staff in response to an oil-spill emergency. The mobile laboratory is also in need of refurbishment.