Pelican rehab at International Bird Rescue

My First 4 Months as the Wildlife Operations Specialist at OWCN

This month is my 4th month working at OWCN. I will give you an update on some of the things I’ve done so far.

From day one I began receiving online trainings, but by my second week I started the in-person trainings and the first one was HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response). During this 40-hour course I learned about how to stay safe during responses and the correct procedures we need to follow.

MOTC March 2024

After that, I went to MOTC (Motorboat Operator Training Course). I had received other trainings for survival at sea before and I had previous experience driving boats recreationally on lakes, but I didn’t have experience with technical driving, so this course was a great addition. I got to learn techniques for retrieving people from the water, knots, safe boat operation, survival, and a lot more, but my favorite part was docking and beach landing with a strong current and the different ways to approach maintaining control depending on the current and wind.

At MOTC I also got an intro course on trailering, which I had never done before. Let me tell you, it is not as easy as it looks! By the end of the second day, I was able to get a good hang of it. I am still practicing, and I have been working with Danny Vickers who has been giving me great tips and letting me play with the trailers.


Around a month ago I received an ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) course. Although I had previous experience driving ATVs at the beach and on farms in Guatemala, I still learned a few things that improved my driving, and it was a fun day driving ATVs with Kyra Mills.

Pelican rehab at International Bird Rescue

During the past few weeks, I have learned how to use dart guns for animal capture, learned how to operate a forklift, worked with pelicans at International Bird Rescue, began updating the inventory of our field equipment, and started working on protocols for response. 

Learning to operate a forklift

I have learned a lot during this past 4 months and I’m looking forward to all the other skills I will learn along the way. 

JJ Cruz, Wildlife Operations Specialist