The Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward has received a grant to work with national zoos and aquariums to create a network of animal care professionals to respond in the event of an oil spill or other disaster.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services has awarded the Center more than $455,000 over a three-year period. The center will work with the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine to develop and deliver training courses, and to create an aid framework to locate and deploy animal care experts, in case of a disaster.
Chip Arnold is the center’s operations director.
“This grant will enable us to develop not only a very wildlife focused training for the folks in zoos and aquariums across the country, but will also allow us to develop a database which will reflect those that we train,” Arnold said. “Their skills, their availability and also their currency of training, so that we know who we can call on in the event of a disaster.”
Arnold has long worked in team training efforts for the Sea Life Center. The center’s training programs have attracted the notice of outside animal care organizations, while they have grown to incorporate diverse aspects of a disaster training. One important aspect is hazardous material handling, which is necessary for any oil spill response team.
“We teach a hazardous waste operations and emergency response class, and we also, because now everyone operates in those disaster scenarios under the I.C.S. or incident command system, we also train our people in the incident command system, so they know basically what the structure of the organization is,” Arnold said.
The Sea Life Center works with federally protected marine mammals, which are the primary species of concern during oil spills. Arnold says the enter has a formal role in oil spill response in Alaska, and has contracts with response organizations for animal rescue of protected seals and sea otters in Alaska.