Opinion Practical and ethical considerations for students conducting ecological research involving wildlife

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Abstract

This commentary outlines relevant changes to the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes for ecologists and students active in field-based wildlife research. All field-based activities that require the approval of an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) have now been detailed within the revised Code of Practice. Researchers and their students are required to give explicit consideration to the humane principles of replacement, reduction and refinement within their experimental protocols as a part of the AEC permission procedure. University-based researchers also have obligations to train graduate students in the ethical as well as the practical components of wildlife research. In promoting this educational aim, a summary of ethical considerations in wildlife research is offered as a basis for discussion: the regulatory framework of research animal welfare (including an introduction to the Code of Practice, the AEC process and some thoughts on experimental design); and the humane principles on which the Code of Practice is based. Some practical considerations for field work relevant to students’ research training are also described.

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