Virginia Tech coastal wildlife conservation expert Sarah Karpanty says the need for urgency is key for recovery and mitigation efforts surrounding the oil spill in Southern California.

“Urgency in cleanup and urgency in beginning rigorous scientific assessments of the impact on wildlife is crucial, in particular the federally threatened snowy plover,” says Karpanty. 

Karpanty is part of the Virginia Tech Shorebird Program and a professor in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. She points to previous research and lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill about how to set up robust experimental designs to assess impacts.

“I’m confident that the work can be done well in California as long as it is not stalled by corporate or political interests. If scientists are blocked from accessing the sites early in the spill, valuable data may be lost that will be important to recovery and mitigation efforts,” says Karpanty.

James Fraser, founder of the Virginia Tech Shorebird Program and professor of wildlife conservation, says it’s also important to ensure that the clean-up itself is not damaging.

“During the recovery efforts of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, clean-up crews were seen driving through sensitive tern colonies with ATV’s,” says Fraser.

About the Virginia Tech Shorebird Program

The Virginia Tech Shorebird Program is a consortium of conservation biologists in the Virginia Tech Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. Their focus of work shares the common goal of conservation of coastal wildlife resources through transformational research. They work with managers and stakeholders to provide research that is timely and pertinent to management. The program began in 1985 with a study of piping plovers on the coasts of Virginia and Maryland. Since then, biologists have worked up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, along the shores of prairie rivers and lakes, and internationally in the Bahamas, Canada, and China, promoting the conservation of seabirds and shorebirds through research. More here:


To secure an interview with experts from the Virginia Tech Shorebird Program, please contact Shannon Andrea in the media relations office at or 703-399-9494. 

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