Can I scrub a sea turtle too?
May 3, 2010 8:26 PM   Subscribe

I want to take my Memorial Day weekend and use it to help with wildlife cleaning/rehabbing in the Gulf. Is this doable?

I'm not sure if this is a crazy idea, since I don't have any experience cleaning wildlife or doing anything particularly hands-on with them.
I'm currently in a class, so I can't just drop everything and spend two weeks down there, but I do have the long weekend free. I live in the northeast, so I'd probably fly, considering the time constraints, but I could tack on a few extra days and drive.

I found this form from the Audubon Society, but I wanted to pick the hivemind brain.

Has anyone done volunteer wildlife rehab before? Would they even want to bother with me? Is it possible to have any reasonable effect during a 3-day weekend?

posted by inmediasres to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know anything specific about what cleanup efforts are going to look like on the Gulf Coast (I'm not sure anyone really does at this point), but for more information, the phenomenon that you're describing is called "voluntourism." A google search will provide you a lot of information - pros and cons - and might help you make a good decision. It all depends on what someone needs and whether there is a quick, effective way to get you trained and put your hands to work.
posted by greekphilosophy at 8:46 PM on May 3, 2010

You might be able to make yourself useful serving food, schlepping stuff, or doing amy number of tasks that don't require special training. I would contact: chambers of commerce, fishing organizations, university oceanography departments, and/or city governments.

Check out your cheapest travel arrangements and make calls for those cities. Unless you have money to burn and prefer to just find a group who will put you to work first.
posted by bilabial at 8:49 PM on May 3, 2010

However, and this is a second comment because it may be deletable, some people use the term 'voluntourism' disparagingly. As greekphilosophy points out, you should do some research about what you'll be doing.

It's possible that an organization could really, really use your $300 (a made up travel budget number) more than it can afford to assign you make-work tasks.

It's equally possible that an organization needs your skills desperately (phone calls, photographing wildlife, driving, sorting...something, mapping coordinates of observations, this is just a list of possible tasks I'm coming up with off the top of my head. The places I suggested above, and your own actual skill set will grow the list, maybe.)

And hey, if you've got a big enough budget, I can travel to help that weekend. I just can't afford to buy a ticket ;)
posted by bilabial at 8:56 PM on May 3, 2010

Also of note, "the Gulf Coast" is bigger than the Mississippi Delta, and given the widespread nature of this disaster you may want to look for opportunities in other places along the coast - Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas . Again, as bilabial says, you're going to want to make sure that you can actually be used as feet on the ground and that you wont just become an expensive human resource that must be moved, housed, trained and deployed.

You may find that some of the organizations that bilabial suggests in smaller towns are going to be scrambling to find bodies as everyone gravitates toward New Orleans to help out.
posted by greekphilosophy at 9:07 PM on May 3, 2010

Re: travel budget. Check flights to ATL Atlanta with rental car for 4 days. Much, much cheaper than flying to Pensacola or other Gulf cities which are not hubs. (I just flew to Pensacola for a funeral a few weeks ago. Drove from there to north Arkansas, because of cost.)
posted by bilabial at 9:18 PM on May 3, 2010

In the 2007 Bay Area spill, volunteers without HAZWOPER certification were turned away, or sent to pick up garbage on beaches with no oil. After pressure from the volunteers, OSHA created a 3 hour version of the certification for just the one incident, but my guess is even that wouldn't get you near the animals.

What if you spent the weekend getting your HAZWOPER certification? You can do the 24-hour classroom portion online in a weekend. Not sure how you'd do the 1-day supervised hands-on training requirement, but it's worth looking into. At least you'd be ready for the next one.
posted by AlsoMike at 9:20 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not only can you volunteer, but BP will pay you between $10 and $18 per hour to do so. See the White House website, the 12th bullet point under the "Response Actions" section. To do it this way, call the telephone number on the Deepwater Horizon's volunteer page.
posted by Houstonian at 2:58 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the feedback so far! I should have mentioned in my original question that I have family near Mobile, Ala., so I'd be based there, and hopefully could work in that area.
posted by inmediasres at 5:55 AM on May 4, 2010

The Alabama Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has set up a page with Volunteer Information. The most useful information on that page is a phone number, 1-888-421-1266.

Right now a lot of the websites point to each other (for example, this page points to the Deep Water Horizon Response and the volunteer page there points back to the page above.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:55 AM on May 5, 2010

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