Washington Update

NASEM Workshop Highlights Challenges and Opportunities in Wildlife Animal Research

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Thursday, February 24, 2022
Earlier this month, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Institute of Laboratory Research (ILAR) convened a two-day workshop that focused on the unique animal welfare challenges associated with conducting research with biologically diverse vertebrates, including wildlife. Hosted by the Standing Committee for the Care and Use of Animals, the workshop marked the first series of discussions that will inform updates to The Guide for the Care and Use of Animals (Guide), the NASEM-published resource institutions use to assist in developing and maintaining their animal care programs.

Researcher safety and protocol standardization were among the key themes featured during the inaugural workshop. In addition to ensuring physical safety for researchers conducting fieldwork with wildlife, several speakers noted that protection for psychological risk is equally important. Therefore, institutions should strive to develop and disseminate training modules for sexual harassment, compassion fatigue, and other issues specific to wildlife research for students and principal investigators. 

Several presenters also emphasized the value of establishing standardized Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocols to minimize variability between institutions and streamline animal welfare best practices. This issue was described at length in the National Institutes of Health final report on reducing administrative burden for animal researchers, and workshop participants noted the ongoing efforts of the Federal Demonstration Partnership’s Compliance Unit Standard Procedure to achieve protocol standardization. However, balancing standardization with institutional flexibility remains a key challenge. 

The ILAR Standing Committee for the Care and Use of Animals plans to host listening sessions with animal research stakeholders to solicit feedback on future workshop discussion topics and identify areas to update in the next issue of the Guide.