How the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at DSU teaches its students

Truman Holt, a young biological science student from St. George, tends to animals at the DSU Natural Science Museum. Photo by Misha Mosiichuk.


Dixie State University is home to lizards, snakes, scorpions, frogs, and of course students.

The animals are part of the DSU Biology Department’s Museum of Natural Science, which is open to the public. When the Science, Engineering, and Technology Building became the new home for Biology, the animals were moved to the Snow Science Building.

Truman Holt, a young biology student from St. George, said the museum houses seven snakes, seven frogs, two salamanders, two anoles, an axolotl and a toad. Along with these vertebrates, the museum also houses arthropods ranging from cockroaches to scorpions. Dr. Curt Walker also keeps his 35 research frogs in the museum.

The animals in the museum are cared for by two student guardians. Holt has been one of the part-time caretakers for about a year and has been carefully trained to provide the best possible care.

“Since snakes are ectotherms, they don’t have to eat very often,” said Brennan Weaver, a Saratoga Springs biology specialist. “I feed them every two weeks and usually every other day I make sure their water and tank are clean.”

The museum has not only living animals, but many preserved specimens, including around 20,000 insects, 22,000 plants, and 3,000 vertebrate specimens.

Geoffrey Smith, assistant professor of biology, said: “There are super old specimens that nobody knows about lying around the museum. It’s as important as the library in terms of the heart of the university, it’s such a historical record of local things.

Museum animals aren’t the only living animals on campus. In some biology courses, students are required to care for a specific animal for research and learning throughout the semester. These animals are housed on the third floor of the SET building.

Of all the animals mentioned above, not all are under the curtain of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Vertebrates and cephalopods are included in the IACUC because of their intelligence. Both the use of animals in the classrooms and in the museum are under the supervision of the IACUC.

Geoffrey Smith, assistant professor of biology, said: “If you’re talking about the life and death of an animal that can feel pain, you have to make sure you’re doing everything you can to minimize the pain and suffering. of this creature, and that’s why the IACUC is here Animal research is needed, so our job is to maximize animal welfare while allowing research to take place.

If you’re talking about the life and death of any animal that can feel pain, you need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to minimize that creature’s pain and suffering, and that’s why the IACUC is here.

Geoffrey Smith

The IACUC is very open about the work they do. They follow and ensure that students follow best practice guidelines for animal use, review experimental designs, provide advice on animal care, and work directly with the Institutional Review Board on the campus. The committee is made up of on-campus and remote faculty and veterinarians, said Curt Walker, professor of biology.

A few years after arriving at Dixie State University, Smith pushed for the creation of the IACUC, which allows him to conduct the research he does on lizards.

Animals on campus are limited to ectotherms, which include lizards, snakes, frogs, and fish. Expanding to mammals on campus would add more expensive special housing and extra care.

Walker said: “Live animals are essential for courses like animal behavior and comparative physiology because dead animals have no behavior or physiology. Computer models do not fully capture the true nature of these processes.

Students interested in working with live animals may consider the following courses: Herpetology, Ichthyology, Animal Behavior, and Comparative Vertebrate Physiology.

“I expect many more research opportunities in the future,” Smith said. “We’re a special institution because we’re right above the Arizona strip and it’s a really unstudied, cool part of the United States.”

Boyd S. Abbott