Home for the holidays conjures a warm glow, but while most of the campus community returned home, a crew of CSU animal caregivers spent winter break tending to a menagerie of creatures used in research and teaching.
While the campus was closed and extreme cold gripped Fort Collins, staff at Laboratory Animal Resources continued to come to work every day for the animals.
“Every single day, every animal is checked,” said Julie Maynard, assistant training coordinator at LAR, who worked through the holidays.
It is no small task as there are more than 10,000 lab animals, mostly rodents, at CSU. Every single one needs food, water, cleaning and inspection. It’s a never-ending, year-round task for the 68 LAR staff. The workers were among the few people who worked on campus for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, too.
LAR, a division of the Office of the Vice President for Research, oversees the health and care of a wide spectrum of animals – from mice to ferrets to cattle – used for research and teaching at three CSU campuses.
Dr. Lon Kendall runs the operation. He’s a veterinarian with more than 20 years of experience supervising lab animal care at CSU and, previously, at the University of California-Davis. He said lab animals play an important role in many of the most significant advances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
“The staff at LAR, and other animal care staff at CSU, are extremely dedicated to not only supporting the research and teaching mission at CSU, but more importantly to the care of the animals used in research,” Kendall said. “They assure their health and wellbeing to advance scientific discovery. That is a daily responsibility.”
“(At CSU), we have such thorough training. We have such thorough documentation. We have so many protocols and steps.”
– Geordi Hall, animal care supervisor at CSU Foothills Campus
“I feel like animal care is like the voice of the animals,” Maynard said. “It’s up to us to notice the little things and make sure (the animals) are being treated right.”
Geordi Hall, an animal care supervisor at the Foothills Campus, is a link between LAR staff and researchers to ensure the needs of animals and researchers are met.
Hall contrasted his work at LAR to his previous experience in other animal care settings, where sometimes animals would be inadvertently injured due to a lack of strict protocols and oversight from senior staff.
“(At CSU), we have such thorough training,” Hall said. “We have such thorough documentation. We have so many protocols and steps.”
Maynard said animal wellbeing is paramount, and staff members are extremely conscientious. Some of the animals are eligible for adoption when a research project ends.
Beyond her love of animals, Maynard likes to work at LAR because she knows the research is important to the people in her life who experienced health issues like Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, or to more serious issues like stroke or cancer.
“I think of my family and friends, and how much research could impact them,” Maynard said. “To know that the work I do on a daily basis could potentially help them or someone like them motivates me every day. Whether or not our research helps one person or 100,000 is worth it in my book.”