Animals on Campus not forgotten, continued care


Sofia RositaniReporter

The animals on campus are still on campus and being taken care of by the students and faculty, whether it be by technology or by going to the university and taking care of them.

Southern has a large fish tank in the science building, and the psychology department has many different types of mollusks for research.

According to professor of Psychology, Michael Nizhnikov, the animals are being taken care of the way they usually would during breaks. But according to co-coordinator of the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies, Vincent Breslin, said they had to adjust the care of the aquarium.

“We have had to prepare an approved protocol for feeding and maintaining the display aquaria in the science building,” said Breslin. “Given the COVID-19 virus pandemic we have limited access to the building. As such, we can’t manually feed the fish or conduct water quality testing daily. We have been using technology to assist us with the fish feeding without having students or faculty in the building on a daily basis.”

Breslin also said they have installed automatic fish feeders into the aquarium. They are also looking into installing a live camera so they can watch the fish.

“We are installing water quality monitoring probes that will allow us to view real-time water quality from our cell phones,” he said. “We are also considering the installation of web cameras to allow real-time viewing of the fish.”

Though the department has yet to have any technological problems with feeding and caring for the animals, they did have issues with shipping the equipment, and according to Breslin, “identifying vendors with the proper equipment.”

While the department had to make adjustments to take care of their animals, the psychology department was able to gain access to feed and maintain theirs.

“Currently the animals that are on campus, we were lucky there were not a lot of animals on campus when this hit, are being taken care of the same way they always have been,” said Nizhnikov. “Our animal care staff are allowed on campus several times a week to make sure that the animals are in good health and to add food, water, etcetera. All of this has been done in careful consult with our veterinarian and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.”

Even though they have been taking care of the animals manually they did have to overcome obstacles in order to take care of them. This is how they would usually take care of them over breaks.

“The campus is basically on lock down and we had to get permission for animal care staff and investigators to come on,” said Nizhnikov.

However, if the shutdown goes into the fall, he said animal research will likely cease.

“Research with animals will have to stop,” said Nizhnikov. “We will, most likely, have to find someone to take any animals that are left on campus. Maybe a pet shop or something like that.”

Breslin said they will continue with the automated feeding for the fish, especially since this system has been running for three weeks and has been working well so far.

“All of the fish and invertebrates appear healthy and they are actively feeding,” said Breslin.

Both Breslin and Nizhnikov said they think they are doing the best they can to take care of the animals still at the university.

“I believe the efforts to protect the health and well-being of the animals on campus was very well organized and represented a good balance of maintaining the health of the animals and the safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff of the university,” said Nizhnikov.
The care for the animals could not have been accomplished without the care being a team effort according to Nizhnikov.

“It was a coordinated effort among the faculty and administration at SCSU,” said Nizhnikov, “To develop well designed protocols for facility access and animal health maintenance.  The use of technology has been particularly helpful in the care of the fish in our absence.”

Photo credit: Jacob Waring

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