OC nominates two ornithologists for new standing committee

The Ornithological Council nominated two ornithologists for a new standing committee on animal welfare. The Institute for Laboratory Animal Research issued a call to nominate experts for a new Standing Committee for the Care and Use of Animals in Research earlier this fall. The new committee will help foster the exchange of ideas and knowledge on how best to make any future updates to the Guide for the Care and Use of Animals in Research, a prominent guidance document for animal welfare.  The OC nominated Dr. William Bowerman and Dr. Rafael Rueda-Hernández for the new committee.

Dr. William Bowerman is a Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Toxicology and the Chair of the Department of Environmental Science and Toxicology at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a world-renowned expert on studying environmental change through its impact on eagle populations, and a highly-regarded researcher, teacher, and leader in the scientific community.

Dr. Rafael Rueda-Hernández is a Postdoctoral Scholar of the Department of Evolutionary Biology at the Universidad Nacional Autònoma de México, Mexico City and a Senior Research Fellow with the University of California, Los Angeles. He has extensive experience in handling and caring of wild birds for research purposes, and is a highly-regarded ornithologist and leader in the scientific community in Mexico and the Neotropics.

The OC also separately contacted the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research, urging them to use this new standing committee as an opportunity to involve a subset of researchers that have been heretofore underrepresented by those involved with developing and publishing ILAR’s Guide to the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals – wildlife professionals. The Guide to the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals is widely applied to research conducted or funded by the federal government and is a suitable standard for biomedical research. However, it has little information relevant to wildlife research beyond general principles. It is crucial that scientists and researchers with experience working in the field are represented on the new committee and are able to offer their expertise and feedback on the committee tasks and deliberations.

Nominations are being accepted through Nov. 6. Learn more here.

September/October NewsBrief

The Ornithological Council is pleased to provide this bimonthly report covering activities from September and October 2020. 

The Ornithological Council seeks to

  • Ensure that the best ornithological science is incorporated into legislative, regulatory, and management decisions that affect birds;
  • Enhance the ability of ornithologists to pursue professional activities; and
  • Promote the influence of ornithology in public affairs. 

Our work focuses on animal welfare issues, permits, research funding, and other policies that affect ornithologists and ornithological societies. We greatly appreciate your support. Please contact our Executive Director with questions or concerns about this report or about any other matter of concern to your society or your society’s members.

In this time period, the Ornithological Council:

1. Submitted written comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regarding draft guidance on the definition of “field study” under the Animal Welfare Act.

2. Provided oral testimony during a virtual listening session regarding the new regulations governing birds not bred for research under the Animal Welfare Act, which USDA APHIS is in the process of developing. We also submitted longer written comments for the record after the listening session.

3. OC Executive Director Bies met with staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird office and the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center/Leetown Science Center to talk about issues of mutual concern.

4. Following up to the meeting with USFWS Migratory Bird program staff, we provided suggestions to USFWS staff on ways to streamline the permitting process and increase consistency among permitting processes and procedures across the USFWS regions.

5. OC Executive Director Bies received a demonstration of the new epermits system launched by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and provided feedback on the system to USFWS staff. Read more about the launch, including the USFWS press release quoting OC ED Bies here.

6. Posted articles and updates on the Ornithology Exchange regarding the newly released OC Import Guide (the completion of this revision was discussed in the July/August NewsBrief), the newly launched USFWS online permit system, a report on natural collections from the National Academy of Science, an update on the current status of the OC, downlisting of the red-cockaded woodpecker, the call for nominees for a new NAS Standing Committee for the Care and Use of Animals in Research, and the comments from the OC on draft field study guidanceand the regulation of birds under the AWA, as discussed above. All these updates, and more, are always available on the ‘News From the OC’ forum on Ornithological Exchange. Each time OC posts in the News from the OC forum, the link is sent to the OC society representatives to share with their networks. If your society would like these emails sent directly to someone else in your society, please let me know.

7. OC Executive Director Bies began reaching out to OC society social media contacts/communications managers to talk about ways to share information, jointly broaden our reach, and be more efficient in our communications. If your society social media contacts/communications managers haven’t talked to Bies yet, feel free to get in touch.

8. Provided individual assistance to 1 individual regarding permits. Name and society affiliations available upon request.

As always, we appreciate your support of the Ornithological Council!

OC offers perspectives on upcoming bird regulations

The Ornithological Council offered testimony during a virtual listening session held by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to gather information to assist in the development of regulations for birds not bred for use in research under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

The testimony offered by Laura Bies, Executive Director of the OC, noted that the additional regulations for birds not bred for research are not necessary, given the current level of regulations already in place for these birds and recommended that APHIS ensure that any additional burden on researchers is balanced by a commensurate increase in protection. Bies provided four recommendations for APHIS to consider as the rulemaking progresses:

  • Exclude wild birds studies in the wild from regulation
  • Exclude offspring of non-exempt birds that breed in captivity from regulation
  • Consult with experts regarding housing and husbandry standards
  • Exempt field surgery from regulation

OC also submitted more lengthy written testimony, providing additional details about our recommendations. Read more about the forthcoming regulations here and read OC’s comments here.

OC submits comments on field study guidance

The Ornithological Council submitted comments to the Animal Care program within USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service regarding guidance the program released last month, clarifying the definition of “field study “within the context of the Animal Welfare Act.

The draft policy aims to assist research institutions in determining whether an activity involving free-living wild animals in their natural habitat meets the regulatory definition of “field study.” The proposed policy describes criteria that research facilities could use to identify activities that are invasive, harmful, or that materially alter animal behavior, and provides examples of activities that are and are not field studies.

The comments submitted by the Ornithological Council note that, without clear guidance on what is or is not a field study, the application of the term – and thus whether or not the Animal Welfare Act applies to research – has been inconsistent in the past. It notes that the examples provided in the draft policy are helpful, but urges APHIS to go further and provide either definitions or examples of key terms within the definition of “field study.”

Read more about the draft policy here  and read OC’s comments here.

Update from the OC: Sept. 2020

While the COVID pandemic may have canceled field seasons, moved conferences online, and caused many of us to shelter at homes for prolonged periods, the Ornithological Council has been busy over the past several months. This update will give you a sense of what we’ve been up to…

Long-time Executive Director Ellen Paul retired in May and Laura Bies, formerly with The Wildlife Society, took her place. Now in a half-time position, Bies has been working to update the OC’s website, meet with key partners, and otherwise continue the important work that Paul had underway.

Recently, OC staff has worked to update the permitting information on our website. We have also released an updated version of A Guide to the Permits and Procedures for Importing Bird Products into the United State for Scientific Research and Display. This extensive guide, which was thoroughly updated this year, provides a step-by-step guide for ornithologists who are importing birds or bird products into the U.S. for research and display, including template documents and checklists to follow. The Import Guide is available to download for free from the Ornithological Council’s website at BIRDNET.org, as a service to the ornithological community.

We have also posted a number of articles on OrnithologyExchange recently, to keep ornithologists up to date on policy issues that may affect them. You can read them all in the ‘News From the Ornithological Council’ forum.

If you have a question about a permitting or animal welfare issue, do not hesitate to reach out to the Ornithological Council. We’re available to help members of our ten societies navigate challenges with securing the necessary permits for their work or with gaining IACUC approval for their research.

The Ornithological Council has recently faced financial challenges, related mostly to the withdrawal from the OC of the American Ornithological Society on July 1. While their exit has had large financial repercussions for the OC, we have adjusted staffing and the services we offer so that the OC can continue to serve the ornithological community. However, we still need your help. If you’d like to support our important work, please visit our website, BIRDNET.org, and scroll down to the ‘donate’ button at the bottom of the screen – or simply follow this link. We truly appreciate your contributions, as they allow us to continue to serve the ornithological community.