NWF scientist Doug Inkley gives an eyewitness account of how the oil spill is impacting wildlife in the Gulf

06-03-2010 // Aislinn Maestas
NWF Scientist Doug Inkley in Louisiana

For more than 20 years, senior scientist Dr. Doug Inkley has been the go-to guy for wildlife questions at the National Wildlife Federation. Whether it is answering a reporter's question about kamikaze squirrels, or helping members understand why Alaska' polar bears need habitat protections, Doug is never too busy to translate his scientific knowledge about wildlife conservation into useful information for the public.

  >> VIDEO: Doug Inkley reports in from the Louisiana coast.

Touring Critical Nesting Areas

Dr. Doug, as we like to call him, has always prided himself on being a scientist first, believing that facts speak for themselves. However, when Dr. Doug visited the Gulf of Mexico to tour areas devastated by the oil spill, his reaction was more emotional than rational.

Despite all the news reports, photos and videos coming out of the Gulf, nothing prepared Dr. Inkley for what he saw out on the water:

"I still find it unbelievable that when we stopped our boat some 50 miles from the spill site, we were completely surrounded by black and brown sticky oil at least half an inch thick. These were our nation' waters, which are supposed to healthy and clean! Far from it! The smell was overwhelming and I just don't know how any living creature could survive swimming in it. In fact, there were dead jelly fish everywhere."

For a week, Doug and a team of NWF staff hosted boat tours of Louisiana's fragile marshes and wetlands. As you can see in the video below, efforts to keep oil from seeping into fragile bird nesting areas are not working.

"Right now is nesting season for brown pelicans, roseate spoonbills and a host of other birds," said Inkley. "Knowing that it only takes a drop or two of oil to kill the developing chick in an egg, I could not help but feel a great sense of loss as I watched birds return to their nests after diving for food in the oily waters of the Gulf. It is going to take years, maybe decades for the fish and wildlife in this region to recover."

On Land, Ways of Life Disrupted and Destroyed

As bad as it was, seeing the oil everywhere, trapped within the booms and out at sea, Dr. Doug was still seeing only part of the impact.

"Words like 'tragedy' and 'disaster' do not do justice to what is happening to the people whose way of life is being disrupted and destroyed. My heart goes out to the fishing guides, the shrimp fisherman, the oystermen, and others whose lives are being destroyed. At the same time, it was inspiring to see so many people willing to help."

NWF Ready to Help

Dr. Doug has since returned from the Gulf, but he continues to be the voice of wildlife during this crisis.

"Eventually the reporters are going to leave and the story will stop making front page news,” said Inkley. “But wildlife will continue to suffer long after the crowds leave. That's why National Wildlife Federation has made the commitment to stay as long as it takes and do whatever we can, to help this region recover."

You can help wildlife threatened by the oil spill by donating online , making a leadership gift  or donating via your mobile phone . Your support will help NWF's on-the-ground volunteer and restoration efforts. 


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