First responders take part in outreach training with Marine Mammal Research Program.

The Marine Mammal Research Program at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab held two educational outreach events with first responders and new volunteers this past month.

On August 14, the first responder training brought 40 participants to the DISL campus. Officers, staff, and interns attended the training from Alabama Marine Resources Division, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Dauphin Island Police DepartmentBon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Gulf Shores Fire Rescue, and Fowl River Fire Department. These agencies are an integral part in marine mammal stranding and sighting response in the Northern Gulf and are great partnerships to develop and continue into the future.

Then, on August 18, the Marine Mammal Research Program hosted a volunteer training for 60 people on the DISL campus. The two-hour introductory training included a classroom component as well as a hands-on portion where volunteers honed their skills in life-like scenarios using fake stranded animals and real response equipment.

Participants were also given a tour of the Marine Mammal Research building and were shown the large equipment used in marine mammal stranding work. This introductory training is required for all those who would like to volunteer with the Marine Mammal Research Program, encompassing the Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network and the Manatee Sighting Network.

Volunteers learned about the marine mammals of the Gulf of Mexico, what to do if they find a live marine mammal in need of assistance, what to do if they find a deceased marine mammal, and how to report manatee sightings.

Dr. Ruth Carmichael works with volunteers during introductory training at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

People from the general public attended this training as well as staff and interns from the City of Orange Beach, Orange Beach Wildlife Center, the Alabama Coastal Foundation, and the University of South Alabama.

Volunteers are a critical component of the Marine Mammal Research Program and continued trainings, such as this one, are crucial in adding members to our volunteer team as well as refreshing the skills of long-term volunteers. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer for the Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network or Manatee Sighting Network, please follow and "like" us on Facebook to stay up-to-date on upcoming trainings.

Report all sick, injured, and deceased marine mammals to 1-877-WHALE-HELP and all manatee sightings to 1-866-493-5803. If you see a sick, injured, or deceased marine mammal, do not push the animal back or remove any line or gear the animal may be entangled in.

Please remember that feeding wild marine mammals is dangerous and extremely harmful to their health and safety.