Avian Oil Spill Assessments

Oiled pelican
Photo Credit: Louisiana Governor’s Office

IEc has helped natural resource trustees assess avian injuries in the wake of several oil spills, including major spills such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident. Our command of assessment techniques is comprehensive, and our work has been at the forefront of new techniques in this field.

For the Deepwater spill, IEc led three studies to collect field data (e.g., the number of dead or injured birds missed during field surveys and the persistence of dead birds in the spill area). IEc’s efforts included developing detailed work plans for implementing the studies; organizing survey team logistics; developing training manuals; providing on-site training to field teams; developing quality assurance and quality controls plans; managing data verification and validation efforts; and developing detailed reports describing the results.

Subsequent to the field research, IEc helped trustees develop the Shoreline Deposition Model (SDM), which incorporates field data and other spill-specific data to estimate nearshore avian mortality in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The modeling estimates the number of birds that deposited over discrete sections of shoreline each day by applying mathematic equations that relate the number of birds observed during shoreline searches with the amount of shoreline searched, searcher efficiency, and carcass persistence. The model then aggregates these estimates across time and space to derive an overall estimate of avian mortality.

Client Natural resource trustees, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service