How Can We Leverage Existing Technology to Help Save Oiled Wildlife

on October 16, 2021
How Can Robots Help Save Wildlife
A sick bird I found walking on the beach but too late
A sick seal I found walking on the beach but too late

How Can We Leverage Existing Technology to Help Rescue and Save Oiled Wildlife

We are beyond saddened and devastated by the horrifying Huntington Beach oil spill. The oil spill has impacted not only the coastline, also the local wetlands are slicked in oil. It has already killed and threatened the life of thousands of wildlife and birds including threatened snowy plovers, brown pelicans, western grebes, egrets, herons, cormorants, gulls, terns, and ducks. The impacts of this oil spill will be a threat to wildlife for years to come as tar balls are just beginning to wash off the shore and into San Diego area.

How Can You Help Now

  1. Dedicated organizations such as Oiled Wildlife Care Network, Wetlands and Wildlife Center, Pacific Marine Mammal Center, and International Bird Rescue are helping rescue and treat oiled wildlife
  2. Only trained volunteers can monitor the coastline and pickup tar balls
  3. Anyone that happens to be walking along the coast, if they see an oiled wildlife or tar ball they can call Oiled Wildlife Care Network and report location of the tar ball or the injured wildlife
Instructions from OWCN:
  1. If you see oiled wildlife, call 1-877-823-6926
  2. Don't pick up oiled Wildlife
  3. Stay off beaches; People and dogs scare birds
  4. Support your local wildlife center

In you see tarballs on the beach send email to: and include:

  1. Date observed
  2. Time observed
  3. Specific location
  4. Pictures
  5. Description
  6. Estimated quantity
  7. Your contact information



    1. What if the volunteers don't see the birds or marine life that are oiled or sickened from tar balls?  Every second counts and could mean life versus death for the wildlife.
    2. The volunteers cannot be at every part of the coastline over 100 miles from Orange County to San Diego and monitor the beach 24/7 to detect and pickup tar balls or report injured wildlife.
    3. It is difficult and takes time to explain the exact location of the tar ball or wildlife over the phone
    4. The oil is dangerous and toxic for humans to handle

    How Can We Better Leverage Existing Technology to Save Wildlife After an Oil Spill

    1. Use of Drones to fly along the coastline to detect and report exact location, condition, and photo of the oiled or injured wildlife
    2. Use of Drones to fly along the coastline to detect and report tar balls
    3. Use of ground robotic systems to drive on the coastline, detect and pickup tar balls
    4. A simple App that individuals can use to immediately report injured wildlife to all the local wildlife care centers

    Examples of Similar Existing Technology We Can Leverage From

    1. Agriculture Drones: Drones that enable farmers to monitor crop and livestock conditions by air to quickly find problems that would not become apparent in ground-level spot checks. One example I found is Aerobotics. Aerobotics has developed agriculture drones that offer AI-enabled pest detection, drone imagery services, disease detection, orchard, and yield management. 
    2. Drones that help scientists monitor the health of the world's largest rainforest the Amazon
    3. Drones that fly over melting ice to track ice melt, ice reflectivity, and water temperatures
    4. Drones for public safety

    Other Robots

    1. BeachBot uses AI to detect trash and help clean up beaches.
    2. Romu, an autonomous robot that can work in swarms to stabilize vulnerable habitats without the need for heavy equipment.
    3. RangerBot is designed to protect the reef while minimizing any risk to humans in the water.

    Robots Developed to cleanup oil after oil spill but Not in the Market

    1. MIT’s Seaswarm robots
    2. Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, or MBARI long-range autonomous underwater vehicles
    3. Soilios Robot

    The technology already exists, how can we leverage the existing technology to tailor the existing systems and develop new systems that can help rescue and save oiled and injured wildlife?


    Beautiful Elegant Terns Photographed Just Before The Oil Spill Photo: ©Azi


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