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Home  |   Our Work  |   Research and Education

Research and Education

Oiled wildlife response and rehabilitation continues to be a growing and fast-changing field. It is exciting and challenging at the same time.


At International Bird Rescue, we feel strongly that working professionals are responsible for advancing the field of wildlife rehabilitation. Therefore, research devoted to improving this profession is an essential aspect of our mission.

International Bird Rescue's in-house research program primarily focuses on improving oiled wildlife care and response as well as the general rehabilitation of aquatic birds. We achieve this through the assessment of new techniques and protocols, including those geared towards management of large numbers of animals simultaneously, clinical trials, pathology of clinical cases and post-release studies. International Bird Rescue collaborates with outside wildlife experts and specialists from governmental or academic organizations on many of these projects.

We co-sponsored the 12th Effects of Oil on Wildlife Conference in May 2015 in Anchorage, Alaska.

Research oversight

All research proposals are carefully evaluated by our Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) for acceptability in wild birds undergoing rehabilitation. We have stringent guidelines that encourage research while maintaining respect for the well-being of individual patients in our care - similar to guidelines for research projects performed on humans or pet animals.

Live animal studies

As an animal welfare organization charged with providing our patients with the best achievable care, International Bird Rescue has restrictions on what research may be performed on our patients. For example, no research is approved that involves any inhumane practice. No animal will be denied treatment for its medical problems, although studies may compare different treatments. Animals are not held in captivity beyond the time when they regain a releasable state of health unless it's shown that extra time in captivity is integral to the research question asked and is unlikely to be detrimental to the birds' health. Contingent on the nature of the research, individual animals may be removed from a study at the discretion of the center manager or clinical veterinarian as the medical condition of each animal dictates.

Studies utilizing deceased birds

In the course of our work, we encounter deceased birds suitable as study subjects for anatomy, parasitology, genetics, ornithology, pathology, toxicology, or other biologic and biomedical projects. We encourage these studies and welcome researchers to contact us regarding potential projects.

When planning projects, researchers must bear in mind that our patients are not healthy wild animals, but rather are wild animals in various stages of recovery from problems. Researchers interested in initiating or planning projects are encouraged to contact the chair of our IACUC.

Current projects include:

Research papers of interest:

Duerr R.S. and K.C. Klasing. (in press). Tissue component and organ mass changes associated with declines in body mass in three seabird species received for rehabilitation in California. Marine Ornithology.

Gaynor A.M., S. Fish, R.S. Duerr, F.N. Dela Cruz, Jr. and P.A. Pesavento. 2014. Identification of a novel papillomavirus in a Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) with viral production in cartilage. Veterinary Pathology 2014 July 17:1-9. For the abstract click here

Humple D.L. and Holcomb J. 2014. Winter movements of Western Grebes and Clark's Grebes: Insight from band recoveries. North American Bird Bander 39(1): 21-28. For full text click here

Holcomb J. Overview of bird search and rescue, response efforts during the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. International Oil Spill Conference Proceedings: March 1991, Vol. 1991, No. 1, pp. 225-228. For full text click here

Nevins H., M. Miller, L. Henkel, D. Jessup, N. Carion, C. Meteyer, K. Schuler, J. St. Leger, L. Woods, Skoglund J. and D. Jaques. 2011. Summary of unusual stranding events affecting Brown Pelican along the US Pacific Coast during two winters, 2008-09 and 2009-10. Final Report, Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center, Santa Cruz, CA.30 pp. For full text click here

Phillips E.M., J.E. Zamon, H.M. Nevins, C. Gibble, R. Duerr, and L. Kerr. 2011. Summary of birds killed by a harmful algal bloom along south Washington and north Oregon coasts during October 2009. Northwestern Naturalist 92(2):120-126. For full text click here

Ruoppolo V., E.J. Woehler, K Morgan, and C.J. Clumpner. 2012.Wildlife and Oil in the Antarctic: a recipe for cold disaster. Polar Record 48:1-13.

Other papers of interest:

Newman, SH, RT Golightly, EN Craig, HR Carter and C Kreuder. 2004. The effects of petroleum exposure and rehabilitation on post-release survival, behavior and blood indices: A Common Murre (Uria aalge) case study following the Stuyvesant petroleum spill. Final Report. Oiled Wildlife Care Network, Wildlife Health Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, 1 Shields Ave, Davis CA  95616. 46 pp. For full text click here.


Become an Intern

Get hands on training through International Bird Rescue's Internship Program.

History of Oiled Seabrids

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How Oil Affects Birds

How even a small amount of oil on birds' feathers can be deadly.

Grebe Movement Study

Download the movements of Western & Clark’s Grebes study paper (PDF)