Marine mammal stranding response training offered

March 26, 2012

By Tony Reisinger

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas — A marine mammal stranding response training will be held at The University of Texas-Pan American Coastal Studies Lab, located in Isla Blanca Park, from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 31.

Participants will learn how to respond to live dolphin and whale strandings on South Padre Island. Brigette Goza with the Coastal Studies Lab will recount a recent live dolphin stranding, lessons learned from the event and teach procedures for handling animals in a pool. Tim Markowitz, Ph.D., a marine mammalogist with The University of Texas at Brownsville Department of Biological Sciences, will lecture on the biology, life histories and identification of different whale species inhabiting the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Tom DeMaar, senior veterinarian with the Gladys Porter Zoo, will talk about veterinary procedures, zoonotics and quality of life for the animals and responders.

This training is one of three courses required for volunteers seeking certification as Texas Coastal Naturalists — a new program that trains volunteers in the Laguna Madre area to be first responders to events like harmful algal blooms, cold stunned sea turtle strandings, marine mammal strandings, oiled wildlife and other coastal natural emergencies. In the winter of 2011, Texas Coastal Naturalists assisted in rescuing more than 800 cold stunned green sea turtles in the Laguna Madre. They also monitored the recent red tide and provided valuable information on location and concentration of the bloom.

The Texas Coastal Naturalist program provides a volunteer base for the Coastal Studies Lab, Sea Turtle Inc. and the Cameron County Extension Service. The Rio Grande Valley Chapter Texas Master Naturalists sponsors the program, which is also supported by the Texas Sea Grant College Program, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Harmful Algal Bloom Work Group, the Gladys Porter Zoo, The University of Texas at Brownsville and Ocean Trust of Texas.

Cost for the training is $10 payable to the Rio Grande Valley Chapter Texas Master Naturalist. The cost covers the three trainings required to be certified as a Texas Coastal Naturalist.

Current Coastal Naturalists are invited to take the marine mammal training as a refresher or as a continuation of the three courses, free of charge. Bring a towel and bathing suit if you would like to get in the pool to learn handing of the animals in the water. Registration is required and seating is limited. To register for the workshop, call Diane Abbott at the Coastal Studies Lab, 956-761-2644.

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Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.