Beer Eases Final Moments for Euthanized Invertebrates
Graduate student seeks humane method for ending lives of research subjects
Posted October 2016
Debates about humane treatment of animals are commonplace when the species in question is a charismatic mammal such as a panda or a familiar, furry house pet. But what about invertebrates?
It turns out a beer can make a difference.
An ESF graduate student recently sought out the most humane way to end the lives of the tiny snails she is raising in a laboratory here.
The answer: A dip in a few ounces of beer or a 5 percent ethyl alcohol solution, as the first step in a two-step process, sedates and immobilizes the snails. Then they don't exhibit signs of physical distress during the final step - a terminal dunk in 95 percent ethyl alcohol.
The process is much like that used with domestic animals, when a veterinarian sedates a dog or cat before administering a final dose of a euthanasia drug.
"There are already strict protocols established for research with certain animals. You have to be sure they are not in pain and that they are treated humanely," said Cody Gilbertson, a graduate student at ESF, whose master's research (funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Great Lakes Restoration Initiative) focuses on an endangered population of Chittenango ovate amber snails. "There's not much out there regarding the treatment of invertebrates.
"We looked at how to humanely euthanize invertebrates, especially land snails, as well as preserve tissue for research," she said. "We wanted to see if there was a way to minimize suffering and minimize the tissue damage that occurs when you put them straight into 95 percent ethyl alcohol. We aren't yet certain what pain these animals experience, but veterinarians can look for changes in tissue structure to better understand how the snails are reacting."
The study by Gilbertson and Dr. Jeffrey D. Wyatt, a veterinarian at Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester and a professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is the cover story in the September issue of the Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. This is the first time a snail has been featured on the cover in the 24-year history of the journal.
"Our finding that beer, a globally available beverage, so effectively anesthetizes snails offers a new technique promoting good welfare for invertebrate research subjects everywhere," Wyatt said. "This is especially true for our population health studies of free-ranging endangered snails in remote locations from Tahiti to Chittenango Falls."
The publication is part of Gilbertson's master's research, in which she is studying conservation of an endangered snail. The "Chit," as its called by its fans, is found only in one location alongside Chittenango Falls in Central New York. Gilbertson has achieved a crucial step in the species' recovery by breeding the snails in captivity in an ESF laboratory, and she is monitoring their population at the waterfall.
She has used an invasive species of snail to help test different diets for the endangered snails. Some of the invasive snails became so abundant they needed to be euthanized.
Traditional euthanization involves a lethal dose of ethyl alcohol (also called ethanol). Gilbertson said when the snails, which are less than an inch long, are dropped into a 95 percent solution, they show signs of physical stress: they quickly retract their tentacles, expel mucus and defecate. They retract deeply into their shells, making their tissue more difficult for researchers to access.
A preliminary dip in beer, however, specifically Pabst Blue Ribbon with its 4.74 percent alcohol content, or a five percent ethyl alcohol solution, gradually immobilizes the snails and makes them unresponsive to stimuli such as a needle scrape or prick. Left alone, they are back to normal in about an hour. But if, in that anesthetized state, they are dropped into 95 percent ethyl alcohol, they die quickly without reacting.
Gilbertson said she used beer in the research because it's inexpensive and available nearly everywhere.
Although unheralded in pop culture, snails perform essential ecosystem functions and are frequently involved in research projects. They are found in a range of environments - dry, wet, tropical and temperate. They are a food source for many species and terrestrial snails provide other animals with a good source of calcium. They are part of the nutrient cycle, breaking down leaf litter into soil.
"Land snails can be indicator species," Gilbertson said. "If you are monitoring a native population and they start to decline, you know something might be degrading the habitat, which could influence other species' decline. Snails are like canaries in a coal mine."
ESF Students Make their Mark
- Class of '17 Joins ESF Alumni RanksDegrees and ESF flags in hand, graduates celebrate accomplishments
- Chemistry Student Wins AwardGraduating senior Curtis Wilhelmsen recognized by environmental division of the American Chemical Society
- ESF Announces Commencement Weekend ActivitiesNumerous events celebrate students’ achievements
- ERE Major Builds Lengthy Resume at ESFTight-knit community, real-world experience made college stand out
- ESF Students Win StoryFest CompetitionTop prize is trip to Brazilian Rainforest for storytelling expedition
- Student from Nepal Finds Her Niche at ESFJyotika ‘Nicci’ Shah plans career in water quality
- ESF Education a Family Affair for Schiavone BrothersThree siblings share a major and a graduation date
- ESF Nordic Skier Competes in World University GamesConducts study on perfluorocarbons between races
- Academics, Athletics, Affordability Lure Soccer Captain to ESFHeather Carl makes her mark on campus
- Daily Adventures Mark Trip to South AmericaRosen Fellowship funds experience of a lifetime
- Student from Italy Finds Motivation at ESF"Here I am constantly pushed to do more"
- Walk on the Wild SideFellowship Funds Trip to South Africa
- USA President Focuses on Building RelationshipsBen Taylor leads 'growth year' for student government
- ESF Junior Honored as 'Unsung Hero'Shewa Shwani to receive award at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
- ‘Jet’ Lewis Builds Busy Life as ESF SophomoreCalifornia resident says diverse ideologies made ESF stand out
- Dedication to Environment Brings Student to ESF from Mexico'There is no other place like ESF,' freshman says
- Beer Eases Final Moments for Euthanized InvertebratesGraduate student seeks humane method for ending lives of research subjects
- ERE Major Tackles Wastewater Plan in IcelandFink Fellowship Supports Summer Abroad
- 44 ESF Students Spend Summer as DEC Interns‘Phenomenal’ range of work can help launch careers
- Paper Engineering Boosts Student through Semester AbroadGraduate-level classes and travel highlight trip to Germany
- ESF Alumnus Begins Peace Corps Service Caleb Rudge to spend two years in Paraguay
- Dream Becomes Reality for ESF SeniorRosen Fellowship supports summer internship in Stockholm
- Summer on the FarmFink Fellowship sends ESF junior to work on Thousand Islands farm
- SRC Fellowship Supports Student in Battle against Mosquitoes Chemical compound could help stop spread of disease
- ESF Landscape Architecture Students Receive ASLA HonorsHonor and merit certificates presented
- ESF Student Finalist for Olmsted Scholar AwardKathryn Chesebrough recognized for academic excellence
- ESF Graduate Joins Teach for America Peter LeDuc finds passion for teaching at ESF
- Advice for Graduates: Stay United, 'Enjoy Your Wisdom'Class of 2016 celebrates at Commencement
- Two ESF Students Earn SUNY Chancellor’s AwardFoley, Zubair honored for excellence
- Closed-Loop Art: Woodburner Uses Material at HandSenior donates artwork to Student Showcase Symposium
- Honors Student Works with 'Best Thing Ever': ElephantsTravel takes Yvonne Lim to Elephant Nature Park in Thailand
- ESF Ph.D. Student Selected as Junior Fellow in Korea
- The Cheer Fun of ItESF student leads SU cheer team
- Ph.D. Student Appointed to Federal Advisory PanelYang joins National Coal Council
- ‘Great Experience’ Takes Grad Student to BulgariaMLA student spends summer monitoring primitive horse population
- ESF Senior Wins Fulbright Research AwardGabriel Smith heads to Sweden to study fungi
- ESF Grad Student Awarded Rare Book School ScholarshipProgram delves into history of hand papermaking
- ESF Senior Honored at National STEM ConferenceCSTEP student Danielle Berry wins second place for poster
- Meghan JohnstoneTraveler in Australia, Nature Conservancy Intern
- Michael AmadoriAquaponics Research
- Ryan HenrySU's biggest sports fan.
- Lauren AlteioHarvard Forest Program
- Brookhaven National Laboratory InternsCourtney Buckley, Daniel Larkin, Michael Norman and Beverly Agtuca
- Brendan-Michael Galloway Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship
- Lynne BeattyMarine resources workshop participant
- Kristen AnthonyLandscape Architecture student, and SU competitive skier
- Craig LazzarEssay Contest nets ESF Senior $10,000
- Zachary KingBiotechnology Researcher
- Daniele BakerSUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence Recipient
- Greg BoydESF Senior, biodiesel expert
- Khristopher DodsonPublisher of Envi magazine
- Cara StaffordInvasive Plant Technician, Catalina Island
- Irony SadeBiotechnology Major
- April Karen BaptistePh.D. Candidate, Fulbright scholar, ESF
- Leah Dudziak & Lisa RuggeroTwo ESF Students on SU Dance Team