Criteria for Exemption from IACUC Approval for Field Studies


Approved animal use protocols are generally, but not always required. This policy clarifies those field situations when a protocol is not required.


The USDA definition of Field Study vs. Field Research is used to determine the need for a protocol:

  • Field Study: Observation/data collection without an impact upon the animal;
  • Field Research: Observation/data collection that requires capture, redirection, behavior modification, sedation, etc.



Field studies of free-living, wild vertebrate animals in their natural environment that satisfy all of the following criteria may be exempt from IACUC approval:

  • Field studies that do not “involve an invasive procedure, harm, or materially alter the behavior of an animal under study”. (9 CFR 1.1 – Animal Welfare Regulation)
  • Field studies that do not involve the capture, handling, housing, transportation, treatment or euthanasia of animals.
  • Field studies that do not cause excessive disturbances of animals due to study activities. Excessive disturbance would include visits to nest sites or breeding areas, close approach to animals during sensitive phases of their life cycle or experimental techniques that might elicit disturbance (e.g., tape playbacks of calls or presentation of models).

To apply for exempt status, complete the Field Study Exemption Form and submit it to


Note: If IACUC approval of a study is required by the funding agency, an exemption cannot be granted. Field studies assigned exempt status may be subject to reevaluation by the IACUC for conditions including, but not limited to, changes in federal, state, local or institutional policy or changes in funding source.


Policy Adoption Date: 09/10/2013

Reference Minutes: 09/10/2013