The North American 3Rs Collaborative

The North American 3Rs Collaborative (NA3RsC) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance science, innovation, and research animal welfare.

We facilitate collaborative opportunities to refine, reduce, and replace animals in research. We are unique in growing partnerships between academics, pharmaceutical companies, vendors, technology providers, contract research organizations, government organizations, regulatory agents, and other non-profits. This diversity is reflected in our organizational leadership. Such partnerships are essential for the development and implementation of the 3Rs. We aim to be a leading authority on the 3Rs in North America & globally.

Strategic Goals

  1. To facilitate key collaborative initiatives for meaningful 3Rs impacts. Each initiative will stimulate research, education, & interaction between stakeholders with the overarching goal of accelerating the adoption of key 3Rs approaches. Currently, those initiatives are centered around translational digital biomarkersmicrophysiological systemsrodent health monitoring, and refinement.
    2. To increase awareness of new 3Rs research via conferences, podcastingour newsletter, webinars, etc.
    3. To be a foundational partner for institutional 3Rs programs by providing education and mentorship

Do you want to stay up to date on the latest 3Rs research, but are short on time? Listen to NA3RsC monthly 3-Minute 3Rs Podcast. In this show, NA3RsC highlight 3 new peer-reviewed publications in just 3 minutes. Released on the third Thursday of every month. Produced in conjunction with Lab Animal & NC3Rs.

Rodent Enrichment


10 Tips for a Happier, Healthier Rodent  


  1. Social interaction  
    It has been proven that animals in general do better in groups. Several female or young litter mates housed together will do very well. Ensure the cage is large enough to house your species, and avoid overcrowding or male groups to prevent fighting, injuries, and in some cases, death.   
  2. Substrate  

Substrate, the material provided at the bottom of the cage, can be a great source of some enrichment. There are many kinds of substrate from corn cob bedding to wood chips and even multiple paper beddings. Choose the kind best suited to your rodents and your study. Mice enjoy a deeper bedding to keep warm, while rats prefer less. And, while bedding should be changed regularly to decrease ammonia build up, spot changes help rodents feel safe and less stressed as it provides for a constant and familiar scent.  


  1. Nesting  

Most rodents enjoy hiding and nesting. It is a natural behaviour seen in both wild and lab species. Choose nesting material that can provide your rodent with enough nesting material to build something warm and to provide some fun. Nesting material can include crinkle paper, nestlets, tissue, etc.  

Hiding spots keep your rodents feeling safe. Huts or housing structures can be provided and come in many varieties including plastic igloos, paper shacks, tubes and climbing structures.  

  1. Toys and Exercise 
    Toys can be a great way to keep your rodents happy and on their best behaviour. Wheels, hanging toys and climbing structures are great ways to keep your rodents entertained and happy. Bored rodents can become psychologically depressed which can have an effect on studies.  
  2. Foraging 
    Rodents are natural foragers, spending a large part of their day doing it, so adding foraging enrichment is a great way to keep them engaged. The substrate provides a space to offer food and treats for them to dig through and find. Using toys or chew boxes to hide treats and food is another great option. Providing foraging options can also help reduce fighting.  


  1. Chewing 

Rodents teeth continually grow during their lifetime. Providing chew options helps to maintain good oral health, keep teeth at optimal levels and can be great sources of enrichment. Consider providing wood gnawing blocks, nylon chew bones or another rodent safe chewing toy.  

  1. Breeding 
    Breeding animals can be stressed animals if there are too many stimuli, including the presence of unfamiliar humans, too frequent cage change, not enough enrichment, etc. Ensuring your breeders have all of the above enrichment can go a long way in aiding great breeding. Sensitive breeders can also be offered other treats such as Love Mash, prenatal gel or even chocolate to help reduce stress and stimulate breeding.   
  2. Handling 

Some rodent species, like rats, are very social creatures. They seem to enjoy human interaction and so handling is a good source of enrichment for them. This also helps acclimate them to being handled during experiments which helps reduce stress. While other species have less love for human kind, some gentle, frequent handling can also help them acclimate and therefore be less stressed also.  

  1. Light exposure  
    Mice and rats are nocturnal creatures, most active at dawn and dusk. Long hours in light may cause stress. Both behaviour and health are effected by light exposure, so it’s important to limit exposure.   
  2. Music/white noise  
    Rodents, mice in particular, are very sensitive to noise. Loud talking, moving equipment and new sounds can all add stress to your colonies. Multiple studies have proven that music can help improve brain function, behaviour, immunology and stress physiology in rodents.

Recent Publications

APRIL 2022

Les Buck’s Lab 


Review: A history and perspective of mitochondria in the context of anoxia tolerance   

Authors: PJ Hawrysh, AM Myrka & LT Buck 

Where to find it: 2022, Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 110733, doi: 10.1016/j.cbpb.2022.110733 


Chelsea Rochman’s Lab 


Monitoring microplastics in drinking water: An interlaboratory study to inform effective methods for quantifiying and characterizing microplastics

 Authors: H DeFrond, L Thornton Hampton, S Kotar, K Gesulga, C Matuch, W Lao, SB Weisberg, CS Wong & CM Rochman 

Where to find it: 2022, Chemosphere, 298, 134282, doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2022.134282  


Sustainable strategies to treat urban runoff needed  

Authors: M Lapointe, CM Rochman & N Tufennkji  

Where to find it: 2022, Nature Sustainability, doi: 10.1038/s41983-022-00853-4 


Emissions inventories of plastic pollution: A critical foundation of an international agreement to inform targets and quantify progress 

Authors: X Zhu & CM Rochman 

Where to find it: 2022, Environmental Science and Technology, 56 (6), 3309-3312, doi: 10.1186/s43591-022-00028-0 


Microplastics: a multidimensional contaminant requires a multidimensional framework for assessing risk 

Authors: K Bucci & CM Rochman 

Where to find it: 2022, Microplastics and Nanoplastics, 2, 7doi: 10.1186/s43591-022-00028-0 


Njall Rollinson’s Lab 


Nesting in close quarters: causes and benefits of high density nesting behaviour in painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) 

Authors: SJ Kell, N Rollinson, RJ Brooks & JD Litgus 

Where to find it: 2021, Canadian Journal of Zoology, 100, 208-218, doi: 10.1139/cjz-2021-0159 


Melanie Woodin’s Lab 


Striatal chloride dysregulation and impaired GABAergic signaling due to cation-chloride cotransporter dysfunction in Huntington’s disease 

Authors: M Serranilla and MA Woodin  

Where to find it: 2022, Frontiers in Cellular Neurosciencedoi: 10.3389/fncel.2021.817013 


David Lovejoy’s, Marius Locke’s, and Leslie Buck’s Labs 

Regulation of skeletal muscle metabolism and contraction performance via teneurin-latrophilin action  

Reid AL, Hogg DW, Dodsworth TL, Chen Y, Reid RM, Xu M, Husic M, Biga PR, Slee A, Buck LB, Barsyte-Lovejoy D, Locke M & Lovejoy DA (2021) Plos One. Doi: 10.1101/2021.10.25.465698. Early online publication.  

John Peever’s Lab 

Review: Brain circuits underlying narcolepsy 

Pintwala SK & Peever J (2021) The Neuroscientist. Doi: 10.1177/10738584211052263. Early online publication. 

Chelsea Rochman’s Lab 

ATR-FTIR spectral libraries of plastic particles (FLOPP and FLOPP-e) for the analysis of microplastics   

De Frond H, Rubinovitz R & Rochman CM (2021) Analytical Chemistry, 93 (48), 15878-15885. Doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.1c02549.  

Conventional and biological treatment for the removal of microplastics from drinking water  

Cherniak SL, Almuhtaram H, McKie MJ, Hermabessiere L, Yuan C, Rochman CM & Andrews RC (2021) Chemosphere. Doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.132587. Early online publication. 

The potential of aerial insectivores for monitoring microplastics in terrestrial environments 

Sherlock C, Fernie KJ, Munno K, Provencher J & Rochman C (2021) Science of the Total Environment. Doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.150453. Early online publication. 

Prevalence of microplastics and anthropogenic debris within a deep-sea food web 

Hamilton BM, Rochman CM, Hoellein TJ, Robinson BH, Van Houtan KSV & Choy CA (2021) Marine Ecology Progress Series, 675; 23-33. Doi: 10.3354/meps13846.   

Helen Rodd’s Lab 

Female preference for color-enhanced males: a test of the sensory bias model in medaka, a drab fish 

Downer-Bartholomew BMB & Rodd HF (2021) Behavioral Ecology, arab131. Doi: 10.1093/beheco/arab131. 

Njal Rollinson’s Lab 

Climate-associated decline of body condition in a fossorial salamander 

Moldowan PD, Tattersall GJ & Rollinson N (2021) Global Changes in Biology. Doi: 10.1111/gcb.15766. Early online publication. 

Kaori Takehara-Nishiuchi’s Lab 

Lateral entorhinal cortex suppresses drift in cortical memory representations 

Pilkiw M, Jarovi J Takehara-Nishiuchi K (2021) Doi: 10.1101/2021.11.04.467279. Early online publication.  

Lateral entorhinal cortex supports the development of prefrontal network activity that bridges temporally discontiguous stimuli 

Yu XT, Yu J, Choi A & Takehara-Nishiuchi K (2021) Hippocampus. Doi: 10.1002/hip.23389. Early online publication.  

Vince Tropepe’s Lab 

Usher syndrom Type 1-associated gene, pcdh15b, is required for photoreceptor structural integrity in zebrafish  

Miles A, Blair C, Emili A & Tropepe V (2021) Disease Models and Mechanisms. Doi: 10.1242/dmm.048965. Early online publication.  


Les Buck’s Lab 

Some species like the painted turtles you can find at Evergreen Brickworks can survive without oxygen for long periods of time. Here, the authors show that cold temperature is one of the key factors that allow them to do this! 

Lari E & Buck LT (2021) Exposure to low temperature prepares the turtle brain to withstand anoxic environments during overwintering. Journal of Experimental Biology, 242793. Doi: 10.1242/jeb.242793.  

Belinda Chang 

Do you enjoy having colour vision? Did you know that the genetics for colour vision often differs between male and female primates? Except in some cases such as the howler monkeys discussed in this article.  

Henrique LD, Hauzman E, Oiveira Bonci DM, Chang BSW Pereira Carneiro Muniz JA, da Silva Souza G, de Lima Silveira LC, de Faria Galvao O, Goulart PRk, & Fix Ventura D (2021) Uniform trichromacy in Alouatta caraya and Alouatta seniculus: behavioural and genetic colour vision evaluation. Frontiers in Zoology, 18: 36. Doi: 10.1186/s12983-021-00421-0.  

Do you or someone you know suffer from inflammatory bowel disease? Here Belinda Chang, Sergio Peisajovich and colleagues demonstrate that a modified yeast can be a therapeutic treatment!   

Scott BM, Gutierrez-Vazquez C, Sanmarco LM, da Silva Pereira JA, Li Z, Plasencia A, Hewson P, Cox LM, O’Brien M, Chen SK, Moraes-Vieira PM, Chang BSW, Peisajovich SG, & Quintana FJ (2021) Self-tunable engineered yeast probiotics for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. Nature Medicine, 27, 1212-1222. Doi: 10.1038/s41591-021-0139 

Jennifer Mitchell 

In this Viewpoint article, five experts, including our own Dr. Jennifer Mitchell, discuss enhancer clusters in the genome.  

Blobel GA, Higgs DR, Mitchell JA, Notani D & Young RA (2021) Testing the super-enhancer concept. Nature Reviews Genetics. Doi: 10.1038/s41576-021-00398-w. 

Chelsea Rochman’s Lab 

Have you heard about microplastics and their effects on the environment and fish? Here Chelsea Rochman and colleagues show us just how much they have permeated the environment.  

Hermabessiere L & Rochman CM (2021) Microwave assisted extraction for quantification of microplastics using pyrolysis GC/MS. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Advance online publication. Doi: 10.1002/etc.5179.  

Munno K, Helm PA, Rochman C, George T, & Jackson DA (2021) Microplastic contamination in Great Lakes fish. Conservation Biology. Advance online publication. Doi: 10.1111/cobi.13794. 

Guo Y, O’Brien AM, Lins TF, Shahmohamadloo RS, Almirall XO, Rochman CM, & Sinton D (2021) Effects of hydrogen peroxide on cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa in the presence of nanoplastics. ASC EST Water,1 (7), 1596-1607. Doi: 10.1021/acestwater.1c00090. 

Chibwe L, Parrott J L, Shires K, Khan H, Clarence S, Lavalle C, Sullivan C, O’Brien AM, De Silva AO, Muir DCG, & Rochman CM (2021) A deep dive into the complex chemical mixture and toxicity of tire wear particle leachate in fathead minnow. Environmental Toxicology, advance online publication. Doi: 10.1002/etc.5140.  

McIlwraith HK, Kim J, Helm P, Bhavsar SP, Metzger JS & Rochman CM (2021) Evidence of microplastic translocation in wild-caught fish and implications for microplastic accumulation dynamics in food webs. Environmental Science and Technology. Doi: 10.1021/acs.est.1c02922.  

Helen Rodd 

What is the colour difference between a chinook salmon and a lake trout? How do you describe and quantify this for your scientific research? In this article, these researchers have developed a novel method to characterize colour differences from digital images.  

Valvo JJ, Aponte JD, Daniel MJ, Dwinell K, Rodd H, Houle D & Hughes KA (2021) Using Delaunay triangulation to sample whole-specimen color from digital images. Ecology and Evolution, 00, 1-17. Doi: 10.1002/ece3.7992.  

JULY 2021

Les Buck’s Lab 

How long can you hold your breath under water? How about goldfish? Read more to find out how goldfish withstand extended periods with no oxygen.  

Pillai V, Buck L & Lari E (2021) Scavenging reactive oxygen species mimics the anoxic response in goldfish pyramidal neurons. Journal of Experimental Biology, 238147. Doi: 10.1242/jeb.238147. 

Les Buck’s and Sergey Plotnikov’s Labs 

Did you know that western painted turtles can survive under the ice and without oxygen for months? Read on to find out the effects these conditions. 

Myrka A, Frost R, Distefano D, Plotnikov S & Buck L (2021) Evidence of cold induced cytoskeletal arrest in hepatocytes of the western painted turtle. FASEB Journal, 35, S1. Doi: 10.1096/fasebj.2021.35.S1.01536.  

Laura Corbit’s Lab 

Do you remember that time when…ummm…I forget the details. Right, it’s a fuzzy memory. Here, these scientists discuss that these fuzzy fear memories may be due to less learning time and less neurons activated in the hippocampus.   

Leake J, Zinn R, Corbit LH, Fanselow MS & Vissel B (2021) Engram size varies with learning and reflects memory content and precision. Journal of Neuroscience. Advance online publication. Doi: 10.1523/jneurosci.2786-20.2021.  

Marius Locke’s Lab 

Have you ever torn a muscle and it took months to heal? You may be able to heal faster if you use a regenerative biomaterial such as a methacrylic-acid hydrogel! 

Carleton MM, Locke M & Sefton MV (2021) Methacrylic acid-based hydrogels enhance skeletal muscle regeneration after volumetric muscle loss in mice. Biomaterials. Doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2021.120909. Advance online publication.  

Luke Mahler’s Lab 

Have you wondered how some terrestrial and semi-aquatic animals can stay underwater for so long? In this ground-breaking article, Luke Mahler and co discovered that some Anolis lizards will extend their underwater time by re-inhaling exhaled air! 

Boccia CK, Swierk L, Ayala-Varela FP, Boccia J, Borges IL, Estupinan CA, Martin AM, Martinez-Grimaldo RE, Ovalle S, Senthivasan S, Toyama KS, del Raario Castaneda M, Garcia A, Glor RE & Mahler DL (2021) Repeated evolution of underwater rebreathing in diving Anolis lizards. Current Biology. Doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.04.040. Advance online publication.  

Jennifer Mitchell’s Lab 


You spend plenty of time giving birth to new research ideas, but have your researched giving birth? Check out this fascinating story of transcriptional regulation during labour.   

Khader N, Shchuka VM, Shynlova O & Mitchell JA (2021) Transcriptional control of parturition: insights from gene regulation studies in the myometrium. Molecular Human Reproduction, gaab024. Doi: 10.1093/molehr/gaab024. 

John Peever’s Lab 


Are you interested in the neural circuits underlying sleep? In this article, the authors review a recent study that added another piece to the sleep puzzle.  

Taksokhan A, Fraigne J & Peever J (2021) Neuroscience: Glutamate neurons in the medial septum control wakefulness. Current Biology, R340-342. Doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.03.006 

Chelsea Rochman’s Lab 

Here is more proof that microplastics in the environment can adversely affect wildlife.  

Bucci K, Bikker J, Stevack K, Watson-Leung T & Rochman C (2021) Impacts to larval fathead minnows vary between preconsumer and environmental microplastics. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Advance online publication. Doi: 10.1002/etc.5036. 

Hoellein TJ & Rochman CM (2021) The “plastic cycle:” a watershed67 20 scale model of plastic pools and fluxes. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 19(3), 176-183. Doi: 10.1002/fee.2294. 

Werbowski LM, Gilbreath AN, Munno K, Zhu X, Grbic J, Wu T, Sutton R, Sedlak MD, Deshpande AD & Rochman CM (2021) Urban stormwater runoff: a major pathway for anthropogenic particles, black rubbery fragments, and other types of microplastics to urban receiving waters. ACS EST Water. Doi: 10.1021/acsestwater.1c00017. Advance online publication. 

Zhu X, Munno K, Grbic J, Werbowski LM, Bikker J, Ho A, Guo E, Sedlak M, Sutton R, Box C, Lin D, Gilbreath A, Holleman RC, Fortin M-J & Rochman C (2021) Holistic assessment of microplastics and other anthropogenic microdebris in an urban bay sheds light on their sources and fate. ACS EST Water. Doi: 10.1021/acsestwater.0c00292. Advance online publication. 

Cowger W, Steinmetz Z, Gray A, Munno K, Lynch J, Hapich H, Primpke S, De Frond H, Rochman C & Herodotu O (2021) Microplastic spectral classification needs an open source community: Open specy to the rescue! Analytical Chemistry. Doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.1c00123. Advance online publication. 

APRIL 2021

Belinda Chang’s Lab 

Did you know that pigments from marine animals are used as neurobiological tools? In this article, Belinda Chang’s lab investigates the evolution of the pigment rhodopsin in the freshwater croaker.  

Van Nynatten A, Castiglione GM, Gutierrez EA, Lovejoy NR, & Chang BSW (2021) Recreated ancestral opsin associated with marine to freshwater croaker invasion reveal kinetic and spectral adaptation. Molecular Biology and Evolution, msab008. Doi:10.1093/molbev/msab008.  

Nature or Nurture? Here Dr. Chang’s lab shows that variable light environments were important in shaping opsin diversity in cichlids. 

Hauser FE, Ilves KL, Schott RK, Alvi E, Lopez-Frenandez H, Chang BSW (2021) Evolution, inactivation, and loss of short wavelength-sensitive opsin genes during the diversification of Neotropical cichlids. Molecular Ecology. Doi: 10.1111/mec.15838. Advance online publication. 

Laura Corbit’s Lab 

Are you concerned about your waistline? Here Laura and Zac discuss the idea that habits contribute to our weight gain and make it difficult to lose weight.  

Pierce-Messick Z & Corbit L (2021) Problematic eating as an issue of habitual control. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychology, 110294. Doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2021.110294. Advance online publication. 

David Lovejoy 

It’s cold out. And your metabolism feels sluggish, right? Did you know there are proteins that can protect species from that?  Here, David Lovejoy et al explore the role of TCAP-3 on metabolic activity in zebrafish. 

Reid RM, Reid AL, Lovejoy DA, Biga PR (2021) Teneurin C-Terminal Associated Peptide (TCAP)-3 increases metabolic activity in zebrafish. Frontiers in Marine Science, 7, 591160. Doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.591160. 

Chelsea Rochman’s Lab 

We all know that plastics are not good for the environment. In this article, Chelsea Rochman and co show us a model of how plastics can end up in our water systems.  

Hoellein TJ & Rochman CM (2021) The “plastic cycle”: a watershed-scale model of plastic pools and fluxes. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Doi: 10.1002/fee.2294. Advance online publication. 

How do we know how much plastic is actually in the environment? With proper sampling techniques, of course. 

Hung, C, Klasios N, Zhu X, Sedlak M, Sutton R, & Rochman CM (2021) Methods matter: Methods for sampling microplastic and other anthropogenic particles and their implications for monitoring and ecological risk assessment. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, 17(1), 282-291. Doi: 10.1002/ieam.4325. 

You can even find microplastics in the Arctic. 

Hamilton BM, Bourdages MPT, Geoffroy C, Vermaire JC, Mallory ML, Rochman CM & Provencher JF (2021) Microplastics around an arctic seabird colony: Particle community composition varies across environmental matrices. Science of the Total Environment. Doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.145536. Advance online publication. 

Using fish from museums from as far back as 1900, these researchers found that fish from the 1950s and onward have remnants of plastics such as polyester in their digestive tracts.  

Hou L, McMahan CD, McNeish RE, Munno K, Rochman CM & Hoellein TJ (2021) A fish tale: a century of museum specimens reveal increasing microplastic concentrations in freshwater fish. Ecological Applications, e2320. Doi: 10.1002/eap.2320. Advance online publication. 

Review Article 

Syberg K, Nielsen MB, Clausen LPW, van Calster G, van Wezel A, Rochman C, Koelmans AA, Cronin R, Pahl S, Hansen SF (2021) Regulation of plastic from a circular economy perspective. Current Opinion in Green and Sustainable Chemistry, 100462. Doi: 10.1016/j.cogsc.2021.100462. 

Helen Rodd’s Lab 

How do you know that your sister is your sister? Check out this article by Helen Rodd et al to find out how guppies identify siblings. 

Daniel MJ & Rodd HF (2021) Kin recognition in guppies uses self-referencing based on olfactory cues. The American Naturalist, 197(2). Doi: 10.5061/dryad.1vhhmgqr1.  

In this article, Helen Rodd’s lab found that chronic Ritalin use in male guppies can affect their offspring and their offspring’s offspring.  

De Serrano AR, Hughes KA & Rodd H (2021) Paternal exposure to a common pharmaceutical (Ritalin) has transgenerational effects on the behaviour of Trinidadian guppies. Scientific Reports, 11, 3985. Doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-83448-x. 

 Njall Rollinson’s Lab 

Snapping turtles, temperature variation, sex determination, and immunity. Are they related? Find out more in the article from Njall Rollinson’s lab. 

Leivesley JA & Rollinson N (2021) Maternal provisioning and fluctuating thermal regimes enhance immune response in a reptile with temperature-dependent sex determination. Journal of Experimental Biology, jeb.237016. Doi: 10.1242/jeb.237016.  

SOP Refresher


Two SOPs that have been updated recently.  

8.1.0 Management of Animal Health Concerns 

Ethics in Animal Research & Teaching: Repository of SOPs, Guidelines, and Forms – 8.1.0 Management of Animal Health Concerns (June 2021).pdf – All by DocType ( 

  • Harmonizes processes across sites for reporting animal health concerns and providing/documenting treatments. 

9.6.0 Anesthesia in Mice & Rats  

Ethics in Animal Research & Teaching: Repository of SOPs, Guidelines, and Forms – 9.6.0 – Anesthesia in Mice & Rats (July 2021).pdf – All by DocType ( 

  • Clarifies and harmonizes anesthetic induction, monitoring and recovery practices for mice and rats 

Access to the full SOPs can be found here. 

  If you have any questions or concerns, please forward them to 

JULY 2021


SOPs provide detailed, step-by-step descriptions/instructions of how to use equipment commonly found in animal facilities or how to perform common experimental techniques and husbandry procedures. SOPs are managed by the Animal Ethics & Compliance Unit (AECU), developed with input from facility staff, veterinarians, and research staff, and are reviewed regularly.  
In an effort to comply with CCAC requirements – it is a regulatory requirement to harmonize and standardize our practices and procedures across the University whenever possible. All sites are working to consolidate and harmonize SOPs wherever possible.   
The goal is to have as many documents completed, harmonized, reviewed, and approved by the time the CCAC visits in March 2021.  
The AECU/ROCO continues the transition to have all SOPs at a single location on the new Sharepoint site to improve search functionality and to facilitate the new document review process. The Quality Assurance Analysts (QAAs) manage the SOP/Guideline database and are responsible for facilitating development, review, and approval of these documents, with input from the ACCs and relevant stakeholders.  

The AECU/ROCO will send updates on the listserv when SOPs have been approved and available on the Repository of SOPs, Guidelines, and Forms. 


Aquatic Life Support Systems

Aquatic Life Support Systems 

A life support system refers to the physical structure used to contain water and house animals, as well at any ancillary equipment used to move and/or treat water. The type of life support system should be appropriate for the intended use. The selection and/or design of a life support system should be based on the natural habitat of the species, age/size of the species, number of animals maintained, availability and characteristics of the water required, and the type of research. The system must be constructed of nontoxic materials that do not leach toxicants or chemicals into the aquatic environment.  

Recirculating systems are strongly preferred over static/renewal systems. If water is to be recirculated, the filtration components, and a sump or reservoir (area to collect water before and/or after treatment). Understanding the system’s component parts can help the user appreciate the basic design and how it may impact animal health and disease management.  

Aquariums support a variety of life that require precise water quality and motion, lighting, and temperature regulation. There are three basic types of filtration: biologic, mechanical, and chemical. All recirculating systems have biologic and mechanical components, and most also include a chemical component. Some types of filters provide more than one of these functions and may be dual purposed in the design. Users should familiarize themselves with basic filtration and more complex system designs as their experience grows. 

Biologic filters remove nitrogenous waste from the system. Biologic filters provide substrate and massive surface area for nitrifying bacteria to live. These bacteria are abundant in the environment and grow well when nitrogenous compounds (ammonia and nitrite) are present in the water column.  

Mechanical filters are always placed before biologic filters in the system design. Mechanical filters typically receive water leaving the vessel housing animals and remove large particulate matter before water comes into contact with the biofilter. Mechanical filters can be as simple as floss or foam pads receiving a stream of water, or much more complex. Sand and bead filters are commonly used and have dual functions of mechanical and biologic filtration. 

Chemical filters provide a way to treat the water. Activated carbon is very commonly used to remove toxins and colored compounds from aquarium water, which helps maintain clarity. Activated carbon filters may also be placed on inflowing water to remove chlorine and/or chloramine from city water. Activated carbon filters can also be used to remove treatment chemicals from water before discharge to city sewers. Other examples of chemical filters include protein skimmers and foam fractionators, which are commonly used in marine systems to remove proteinaceous waste (decreasing the load on the biofilter); ultraviolet light, which removes potentially pathogenic organisms from the water column; and ozone, which clarifies water and kills microbes.  

What’s New – April 2021

  • Per Diems & Service Fees 
    • As a service unit, the BSF is obligated to recover costs associated with the procurement, husbandry and care of animals used for research at U of T.  
    • A proposed new BSF fee structure was discussed in 2019. It was based on the NIH Cost Analysis and Rate Setting Manual for Animal Research Facilities Manual, and cost-accounting in accordance with Canada’s Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide. It confirmed that an increase in fees was needed, in order to sustain BSF operations and continue to improve services. 
    • New BSF fees were planned for implementation for May 1, 2019 but due to SIF project it was put on hold. Subsequently UTSC and UTM initiated restructure of their fees and upon discussion a harmonized approach from all 3 FAS sites was decided.  
    • Plans were to implement new fee structures for May 1, 2021 with discussions between May-Dec 2020 however due to COVID-19 again, this was put on hold. Due to major impact on research and restart, it has not been revisited since however, discussions will resume and new cost analysis to begin. BSF User Group meetings will resume to discuss findings and proposed changes to our structure fees. 
  • Business Officer & Admin Assistant replacement 
    • Stephanie Melo has left the BSF for other opportunities. 
    • The BSF welcomes Michelle Cadman return to the BSF. 
  • CCAC Visit – Mar 23 & 24, 2021 
    • Virtual review of animal care program and related documents. 
    • Planned virtual tour in September 2021 

SOP Refresher: Decontaminating aquatics spaces

Cleaning is defined as the process of making free from dirt, foreign, and extraneous matter, whereas disinfection is the process of freeing from infection specifically by destroying harmful microorganisms. 

Appropriate cleaning and disinfection procedures in fish laboratories are crucial in preventing the spread of aquatic animal pathogens and minimizing the build-up of waste products and biologic matter.  

The disinfection procedures chosen must be effective and relevant to the individual needs of the laboratory. The cleaning and disinfection methods used by different fish laboratories may vary considerably. Routine disinfection may be reduced to a minimum if good management practices are implemented daily. When people, equipment or other materials enter or leave a lab, thorough disinfection should be performed. However, in the case of an outbreak of a notifiable disease, rigorous disinfection procedures are necessary.  

The first step in decontamination is a thorough cleaning of the facility to remove organic material.  Organic material can harbor bacteria and greatly reduce the effectiveness of most chemical disinfectants. The washing and disinfection procedures should at least include the following stages:  

  • Removal of solid waste, etc., followed by prewashing;  
  • Deep cleaning and washing;
  • Disinfection;
  • Rinsing

Cleaning records should be kept. 

All the equipment used for feeding, cleaning, and for removal of dead aquatic animals should be unique to each housing unit. Appropriate net cleaning and disinfection reduces or eliminates organic material and kills infective agents, reducing the potential of the net to transmit pathogens. Nets are used frequently to capture fish from different tanks for breeding or other manipulations and are the most likely the source of cross-contamination if not cleaned and disinfected correctly between uses. General disinfection can be accomplished by soaking nets and brushes for 5 minutes in bleach solution, commercial net cleaner or alternate disinfection solution, followed by fresh water rinse.  To ensure neutralization of chlorine, a sodium thiosulfate solution can be used. 

Dirty tanks should first be scrubbed with a stiff brush to remove the majority of the algae.   They are then placed in a diluted bleach solution for 4-24 hours or washed by hand, and then stacked until they are thoroughly dry. 

A multipurpose alkaline cleaner designed specifically for use in fish is an important first step in removing organic solids and biofouling. Virkon Aquatic is a common cleaning and disinfecting solution with efficacy against a broad range of fish viruses, bacteria, fungi, and molds. 

All products used for disinfection must be used and disposed of in accordance with the manufacturers’ recommendations and likewise any health and safety guidelines should also be closely adhered to. If a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) has not been supplied with the product we strongly recommend that a SSDS be obtained from the manufacturers’ website or from the suppliers of the product. 

The disinfectants must be stored in a way that presents no direct or indirect danger to animal and/or human health and the environment. 

Cleaning and disinfectant resources: 

All personnel should regularly wash their hands after working in the facility, and wear gloves when in contact with fish or water. One of the most common routes of infection in humans is through cuts or scrapes on hands or feet. 

Agents available for general disinfection of facilities and equipment include Mycobacterium sp. Always consult manufacturer for use and safety requirements.