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MVZ Curatorial FAQs - Specimen Preparation

MVZ Handbook

Specimen Preparation

If I find a dead animal, does the MVZ want it for the collection?
MVZ curatorial staff welcomes salvaged material. To donate a salvaged animal, please fill out a Salvaged Specimen Data Slip and an Accession Donation Form (Salvage & Gifts) -- both are available on the door of the 3rd floor freezer in the curatorial area. Carcasses should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and the specimen data slip should go in the bag with the animal (the data slip includes your name, date found, location found, and circumstance) -- if carcass is bloody please protect the data slip by double-bagging. The animal should go into the 3rd floor chest freezer into the "new donations" box (for larger carcasses, contact Terri Barclay). The Accession Donation Form should go to either Chris, Carla, or Carol depending on whether it is a mammal, bird, or herp (respectively). If you place an unlabeled animal in any freezer, it will be discarded by curatorial staff. Some salvaged, donated specimens are discarded, so don’t be surprised if something you donated never shows up in the collection.

Where do I dispose of chemicals and biohazard waste?
Limited amounts of some chemicals (formalin, ethanol) can be poured down the sink, but it is illegal to pour many other chemicals down the sink. Check with Chris or Carol before disposal of any chemical, including ethanol and formalin. We re-use chemicals such as ethanol and formalin when possible. Please add these to containers labeled "used ethanol" or "used formalin" in the Herp Lab. Squeeze out any towels or cheesecloth covered in these chemicals into the labeled containers, rinse towels/cheesecloth well in water, and hang to dry above the sink. When in doubt, contact Chris Conroy, the MVZ Safety Officer, or Carol, Herp Lab Manager.

Any fresh animal materials/residues are considered a biohazard (e.g., blood and guts, bloody paper towels and gloves, etc). It is against VLSB rules to put biohazard waste in the trash. It is also inconsiderate to our custodian who has to dispose of our garbage. There is a biohazard waste bag in the Prep Lab walk-in freezer on the 1st floor. Terri has EH&S come and remove biohazardous waste from the MVZ Prep Lab on a regular basis and the museum is charged per barrel. If you know you will be working with materials that will create biohazardous waste, please talk to Terri for further directions.

How can I learn to prep an animal?
If you want training in specimen preparation, start by contacting Terri Barclay. Terri runs regular training sessions in the Prep Lab. The other staff (Chris, Carla, and Carol) can also train people in specific areas. Please do not ask for help in this area on short notice. Skilled preparation of specimens, e.g., on a research trip, takes a good deal of practice. Most people need several days of training, so it’s best to give yourself at least a month's time to learn.

How can I get access to the specimen prep lab?
The door to the prep lab is protected by access via your ID card. Contact Terri if you think you might need access to this lab. Use of the lab must be previously arranged with Terri with at least a week's notice because the lab has limited space and many people use it. Do not access the walk-in freezer, the prep lab supplies, the liquid nitrogen tanks, or the field supplies without contacting Terri first.

What are the rules for working in the Herp Lab?
The Herp Lab is open to any MVZ researcher by prior arrangement through Carol. Before working in the lab, you must read and sign the Standard Operating Procedures sheet (next to the phone outside the Herp Lab) AND receive brief training in use of the lab from Carol. ALL containers with fluid specimens in stages of preparation must be labeled with the fluid, date, and person responsible. Unlabeled material is liable to be discarded. Use of formalin is restricted to the fume hood.

How do I euthanize an animal?
Anyone needing to euthanizing an animal in the MVZ must be listed on an animal use protocol. They should be trained by a staff member. Isoflurane for euthanizing mammals and birds must be obtained by a Principle Investigator (PI) from Office of Laboratory Animal Care (OLAC). These drugs are kept by the PI. MS-222, commonly used for euthanizing amphibians and reptiles, is kept in the Herp Lab or in Chris Conroy's office. Sodium pentobarbitol (Nembutal) is a controlled substance and can only be purchased from OLAC and used by those with extensive background checks. See Chris Conroy for procedures to obtain that check.

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