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Research Project: Development of Short-term Opportunities for Experience in High Containment Research Animal Support Careers

Location: Operations

Project Number: 3022-32000-013-011-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 15, 2022
End Date: Jun 2, 2027

To increase awareness and expand practical training opportunities for careers within agricultural and biocontainment research with animal species, primarily livestock. Because there are few opportunities to gain exposure and experience with animal handling in biocontainment, individuals often gain employment with basic minimum competency in animal husbandry and benefit heavily from on the job training (OJT) to become competent in the biocontainment practices required to safely perform this work. This program would expose students to research animal husbandry, welfare and care, focusing on livestock in biocontainment. Providing care to animals infected with emerging, foreign, or zoonotic pathogens requires specialized knowledge and a commitment to safety. Enhanced awareness, introductory training, and the opportunity for practical, hands-on learning experiences in the field earlier in students’ careers would increase the pool of qualified, knowledgeable candidates for entry level positions within biocontainment labs within the USG, academia, and industry. Students would benefit from education, experience, and forming personal relationships with science professionals who share NBAF’s mission of protecting the United States against transboundary, emerging, and zoonotic diseases that threaten our food supply, agricultural economy, and public health. Students who complete this training would be more qualified and competitive for animal care positions within high containment labs. Ultimately, an experienced, qualified research animal care workforce would enhance laboratory safety, increase diversity within the field, and support resilience of the U.S. to emerging, reemerging, transboundary and zoonotic diseases, while ensuring the highest standards for animal care and welfare.

Over the next 5 years, the Cooperator and ARS will work together to develop a program for animal care technicians to conduct summer research internships at ARS laboratories. Curriculum would include and cover: • Principles of biorisk management including biosafety, biocontainment, and biosecurity as they apply to handling and working with livestock and laboratory animals in a research setting; • Regulatory guidelines and legislation that govern animal research with high consequence pathogens and necessitate specialized work practices including appropriaterecord-keeping methodology for research, diagnostics, husbandry, select agent, and chain of custody; • Safety precautions for working with livestock and laboratory animals; • Preparation of animal holding areas including occupational health; considerations, disease risks, appropriate animal environments, behavior needs and enrichment; • Entry/Exit into animal holding areas and different considerations based on risk/animal biosafety level; • Animal receipt and handling including ensuring only healthy animals are included; • Emergency responses including weather and building disasters, as well as escaped animal or lab release of biological agent; • Daily procedures for animal health management and record-keeping; • Humane endpoints and carcass disposal; • Necropsy and sample collection; and • Restraint, anesthesia, sedation, pain management. Options for on-site laboratory rotations would be available through partners such as National Bio and Agro defense Facility (NBAF), the Cooperator, and other labortories. The funding for the program will go directly to the Cooperator for disbursement to students.