By Andrew Hobbs

AN ONLINE training course developed by New Zealand’s Massey University and the University of California (UC) Davis will train oil spill response teams across the world more efficiently, its developers say.

Louise Chilvers, a senior lecturer at Massey University’s Wildbase Oil Response unit, told Oil & Gas Australia that both Massey and UC Davis were contracted to treat wildlife affected by oil spills in New Zealand and California.

Dr Chilvers said the leaders of both institutions decided to collaborate to develop a course that was more international in scope and more widely accessible.

Both institutions bearing responsibility for training oiled wildlife response teams, but ensuring all were sufficiently trained could be difficult when training courses took place over a pre-determined timeframe, she said.

If a required course was not available one year, it could mean staff would go without specialist training for a while, she added.

“With a training course usually you fly somewhere and you spend two or three days and someone tells you all about it, or we have to fly somewhere to train you, but having at least part of the course online means it’s much more accessible,” she said.

“With online you can just go – right, here’s course one, just sit down, go through it, and if you have any questions come and talk to us.”

Launched in May, the Oiled Wildlife Response Training (OWRT) course is a research-led training program developed and delivered by the universities, using gaming, animation and quizzes to train people at all levels in the response chain.

The first level of the course, and the only one on offer at this stage, is Foundations of Oiled Wildlife Response – a four hour course teaching about the composition of oil and the damage it can do to animals, plus an introduction to some relevant legislation.

Dr Chilvers said the foundations course would open on the first of July, with trainers available for consultation over six weeks – providing support where needed.

“Then if you want to be a responder these next three courses are for that sort of level – for someone being in the rehab centre or going out on reconnaissance of animals in the field or being a facility person,” Dr Chilvers said.

All those courses will have practical components as well, with students learning about wildlife local to their area, as well as specific regulatory differences between the two countries.

“If you look at the US system they have to collect evidence because everything is chain of evidence and that’s included in this course,” she said.

“That’s not something you have to do in New Zealand but the point of the course is to train people to be at a more international understanding level, so that as a Kiwi I can undertake this course and I understand what does need to happen in the States.”

Another three courses will also be offered for people wishing to be area leaders in rehabilitation facilities, and for those developing wildlife rehabilitation plans – though these are still in development.

Massey University received funding from Education New Zealand’s International Education Growth Fund to help with OWRT set up costs.