Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- They came from near and far to the Audubon Aquatic Center on the West Bank: attendees of a biannual conference focusing on oil spills and what happens to the wildlife that comes into contact with them.

Trine Stromme of Friends of the Earth traveled all the way from Norway to be there.

'We are, after all, an oil nation,' she said.

For the past several days, nearly 200 people have attended the 11th International 'Effects of Oil on Wildlife Conference.' It is the first one held since the BP oil spill and organizers said New Orleans was the appropriate place for it.

'It seemed kind of a natural fit,' said Suzanne Smith, with the Audubon Aquatic Center.

The Audubon Institute handled a number of species impacted by the BP oil spill, including dolphins and turtles.

'We had a lot of share,' Smith said. 'We may not have been experts prior to April of 2010, but we certainly are one of the experts in the field now.'

Some of the attendees, who handled a portion of the thousands of oiled birds along the Gulf Coast, said the conference can help other regions prepare for dealing with any future spills.

'We are a group of professionals that work together. If one person does the research, then we can kind of say, 'Hey, this is something that works.' We can put this, in the event of a response, we can work and try to utilize some of the things that have come out of what we've learned throughout time,' said Danene Birtell of the Delaware-based Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, which helped organize the conference.

Trine Stromme paid close attention to how American agencies and organizations dealt with oiled wildlife and plans to share what she learned back in Norway.

'We drill for oil in our waters, Arctic waters, which are also extremely sensitive,' she said. 'Of course, we are scared that something similar will happen in Norway.'

The conference wraps up this weekend. Those attending came from more than 20 countries, including Brazil and South Africa.

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