Moving at 40 cages per hour

Jan 302011
Authors: Rachel Childs

In the Painter Center at CSU sit 3,500 cages filled mostly with mice and other rodents. Laboratory animal technicians oversee the care of these animals.

Among the many tasks that they must complete are cleaning up to 40 cages per hour, regular room checks and feedings.

Sometimes they are the first to observe problems with the animals and bring them to the investigator’s attention.

“They are underappreciated for what they do, because they are the eyes and ears for us and for the investigators for when they go in to check on the animals,” said Dr. Lonnie Kendall, associate director of Laboratory Animal Resources.

Most technicians have at least a bachelor’s degree and must go through up to two months of training that corresponds with USDA and American Association for Laboratory Animal Science policy.

“There’s an awful lot of regulation and an awful lot that goes on before anybody gets to do anything with an animal,” said Michelle Adams, an animal care supervisor and animal technician for seven years.

About a dozen technicians work in the Laboratory Animal Resources, but can add up to hundreds in other departments across campus.

Many call them underappreciated, but this week, animal laboratory technicians are getting more recognition, courtesy of International Animal Laboratory Technician Week.

It was started nationally by the American Association of Laboratory Science in 1999, and partnered with the International Council of Laboratory Science in 2002. The week at CSU is sponsored by the CSU Animal Care Program, but is observed worldwide.

“It is important to have the week dedicated because animal laboratory technicians are one of the lowest paid individuals in the research and teaching chain and yet they’re extremely critical to the outcome of research,” said James Owiny, a university veterinarian.

This week features a luncheon Thursday where a “Technician of the Year Award” will be given to an outstanding lab technician who goes beyond their duties to keep the animals alive and well.

Anyone involved in the care of animals can be nominated or nominate themselves for the award and must have worked at CSU for a year or longer.

“I think it does drive home that as the animal care staff, we’re not just the hotel maids for critters,” Adams said.

Staff reporter Rachel Childs can be reached at

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