Skip to main content

Field research with animals FAQ

If the presence of researchers at the location of observation is likely to cause habituation to humans or alter the animals’ behaviour during their presence, you will need an animal use protocol. For example, paddling kayaks close to nesting birds would likely cause the nesting birds to become agitated.

If the presence of researchers at the location of observation is unlikely to induce habituation to humans or alter the animals’ behaviour during their presence, you don’t need an animal use protocol. For example, counting bird species that land on a beach normally used recreationally by humans.

If you are not sure if your project needs a protocol, please send a brief description of the project to the animal ethics liaison. The chair of the ACC will review your description to determine whether you need one.

Please contact the animal ethics liaison as soon as you know that you’re coming close to or have exceeded your approved animal numbers. You must amend your protocol to reflect increased numbers.

If the required increase is less than 10% of your currently approved numbers, your amendment can possibly be done following the expedited amendment process.

If the increase required is greater than 10% of your currently approved numbers, the animal ethics liaison will guide you through the process of amending your protocol.

The ACC realizes that fieldwork can be somewhat unpredictable. Please contact the animal ethics liaison as soon as you know you’ve encountered unintended species. They will guide you through the process of amending your protocol and notifying the committee.

If you are encountering animals through observation or any other means in such a way that affects their behavior, that constitutes a “use”, regardless of whether or not the animal is captured, housed or handled and whether it is the targeted species.


  • if your protocol describes minnow trapping species in a pond, all animals trapped are “used,” regardless of species
  • if your protocol describes a bait station from which still or motion‐detected animal photographs get taken, each animal entering the bait station is “used”
  • if your protocol describes seine netting where all animals get released, each animal caught in the seine is “used”

No. Currently, only vertebrate species and cephalopods (octopus, squid) fall under an animal use protocol. However, licenses sometimes do require the enumeration of invertebrate species. Please check with the relevant (provincial, federal or municipal) licensing body.

Yes. The Wildlife Care online tutorial is designed for all wildlife researchers and provides a baseline understanding of the ethical use of animals for research. The ACC may require additional training, depending on the nature of the protocol. Contact for more information or to initiate training.

You should submit your field study report prior to the expiry of the animal use protocol.

We strongly recommend that you provide the ACC with the report as soon as the field study period ends. This is often well in advance of the protocol’s expiry.

Contact the animal ethics liaison as soon as you can after the event. Do not wait until you prepare your annual field report. The liaison will lead you through the process of reporting this unexpected event to the ACC.

The ACC recognizes that field research can be unpredictable. Provide a best estimate of the numbers and species you should expect to encounter in your field study by:

  • reviewing current and historical databases
  • contacting local, provincial and national wildlife authorities
  • using statistical population models (where they exist)

Note: the ACC normally recommends that researchers err on the high side. You can refine your numbers (upward or downward) as researchers become more informed about expected populations and species during their field studies.

Depending on the procedures you intend to perform in the field, you can receive training from:

  • UVic Animal Care Services (ACS) staff members
  • university veterinarian
  • in‐house (faculty/researcher) experts
  • external experts

If you’re using in‐house experts, the university veterinarian or ACS staff members, contact the animal ethics liaison to arrange scheduling.

If you’re using internal or external experts, fully describe the training process in your animal use protocol. The ACC must ensure that all researchers performing research on animals are adequately trained and proficient. 

Note: you may need to add internal or external experts to your animal use protocol, depending on what role they will play in researcher training.

The relevant licensing body depends upon the species and location of the work. In BC, the Wildlife Act covers a number of species and activities. See also the Ministry of Environment local office for Vancouver Island.

Field research involving marine species in Canada requires contact with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Personnel at this department can advise on required licenses and permits.

If your work is at a foreign location, contact the relevant government bodies well in advance of the field season. Licensing and permit requirements vary widely between locations, as do wait times for the completion of documentation.

It’s important that you specify precisely the procedures that you intend to do to the licensing agency, such as transportation of animals, carcasses or tissues (including feces). This information should be specified within the license. Don’t assume that you have permission to transport without it being clearly outlined in the license.

During the summer months, protocols get handled via an interim committee that is struck by the chair of the ACC. Normally, a researcher receives a decision within 10 business days after protocol submission.

Need help?

For more help on any of the FAQs above, contact the animal ethics liaison.