Waiver to volunteer for marine mammal necropsy response with Dr. Kathy Burek

Volunteers are an essential part of the necropsy process for the handling of carcasses as they allow qualified and experienced professionals to delegate routine tasks so that their time is spent more efficiently and effectively. It is also mutually beneficial in that we make a big effort to educate the volunteers what we are doing, why and what the follow up will be on these important cases. Many people interested in pursuing careers in medicine (human or veterinary), biology or conservation can benefit greatly from these experiences.

DUTIES: The level of experience of a volunteer often dictates their role in a necropsy. The following is a list of possible duties for the student volunteers.

1. Record keeping: This volunteer will be “clean” and not participate in any of the actual handling of the carcass. They can fill out the necropsy forms, keep track of collected samples in a checklist, or bring sterile sample collection materials to the prosector while not contaminating the datasheets and other equipment. Volunteers will be instructed on how to handle sterile materials and will be expected to maintain those practices for future necropsies. Previous knowledge of medical terminology is preferred for filling out necropsy forms but not necessary, as the volunteer would be expected to write down observations made by the attending veterinarian or veterinary technician.

2. Dissection: More experienced volunteers will be involved in the dissection and disposal of the carcass. This can involve use of scalpel blades, forceps, scissors, and possibly saws. Students will be trained on the physical risks associated with these instruments before being allowed to participate. Proper PPE including aprons, gloves, eyewear, and masks will be provided by AVPS / UAA grant commodities. Some boots are available, but students will be asked to bring others, if needed, and to have other clothing and shoes to change into after the necropsy. Proper use and instruction of safety equipment will be given beforehand. Volunteers will be trained to use scalpel blade removers and instructed on the proper disposal of sharps using the provided DocuSign Envelope ID: 3C184F5A-E49A-4F1C-918E-9BBC148F71FB April 5, 2018 April 6, 2018 April 6, 2018  Page 2 sharps containers. PPE will be provided to those volunteers dedicated to “clean” tasks, as well.

3. Post-necropsy handling of samples will, in some cases, be carried out by properly trained volunteers. These volunteers will need access to the Ecosystem-Biomedical Health Laboratory (EBL) and/or Conoco-Phillips Integrated Science Building at UAA where the freezers are located to properly archive tissues. In addition to helping manage the freezers at UAA, volunteers involved in post-necropsy handling will be a part of shipping samples to different laboratories for analysis. These volunteers will be given proper instruction on how to safely package and ship animal specimens and follow proper labeling for these samples. The AVPS technician will have the primary responsibility for these tasks.

DATE RANGE: Necropsies can occur any time of the year, but the main stranding season is from April through end of October.

SITES FOR NECROPSIES: The sites of necropsies can vary depending on the size of the carcass and how far it is located away from Anchorage. Most other necropsies will be performed at the UAA necropsy laboratory in the Ecosystem-Biomedical Health Laboratory (EBL) building. All safety procedures mentioned above for the USFWS lab will also be done at the EBL laboratory. Some necropsies are time sensitive and long lasting and access will be needed on weekends and late into the night. If a larger carcass cannot be shipped to the laboratory, it will be necropsied on site, depending on where the stranding occurred. This can involve a drive down the road, a boat ride to the site, a commercial aircraft or a chartered float plane. In rare instances, a helicopter may have to be chartered. All chartered air vessels must be OAS certified and any volunteer or employee needs to have gone through the A-312 Water Ditching and Survival Training offered through the Office of Aviation Services. Volunteers will not be permitted to participate in field necropsies unless they have prior necropsy experience in the lab and have been properly trained on how to use equipment correctly. 


(Required for participation)

1. Inherent Risks - I understand and acknowledge that there are known, unknown, and unanticipated risks and dangers that are qualities of these activities that cannot be eliminated. These are often called “inherent risks” and will be referred to this way in this document.


There are physical hazards associated with the work, including cuts from instruments, back strain from lifting, tripping over equipment or uneven ground in the field, and getting on and off boats or planes. Risks from these exposures to hazards can also be aggravated by long hours of work. Volunteers will be provided with proper training of lifting techniques, proper use of dissection instruments, and briefings from trained professionals regarding transportation protocols. There will also be regularly scheduled break intervals to avoid accidents caused by fatigue. First Aid Kits will be brought in case of injury out in the field, in addition to survival gear. If there is any risk of exposure to bears in a remote area, bear protection personnel experienced in this task will be part of the team. These are usually provided through OLE personal with NMFS. 


There are biomedical hazards associated with working around animals that have died of unknown causes; this may include infectious diseases. Volunteers will be trained on how to use personal protective equipment (PPE) effectively. AVPS will provide all necessary PPE. Volunteers will also be made aware of any zoonotic diseases that may be of concern for a given case. 


Some chemical hazards will be present in both the lab and field settings, including formaldehyde and ethanol. SDS sheets can be provided to volunteers upon request.

  •  10% neutral buffered formalin: A SOP on use of formalin has been submitted. During necropsy, the minimal amount of formalin will be used and will be covered at all times unless samples are being added. The formalin will be in a stable area out of the route of traffic to avoid any spillage. In emergency cases, spill kits and containment supplies are always brought with formalin. Formalin will be transported in airtight closed containers. Only AVPS employees or other trained professionals who have taken HAZWOPER 24 hour training will be responsible for the transportation of formalin.
  • 90% ethanol (ETOH) is used to sterilize instruments and tissues by flaming them.  A minimal amount is used and a lid is always placed near the ethanol for containment. Only AVPS employees or experienced volunteers will be involved in flaming. Containers of water are always situated nearby.

(Approved by Risk Management on 21 Feb 2020, TME)

2. Possible Harms - I understand that these “inherent risks” can result in “harms,” which in this document means damage to property; permanent or temporary physical, emotional, and mental injury to myself or others; and, death or disability of myself or others.

3. Investigate Risks - I agree that it is my responsibility to understand the risks in my participation in these activities. It is my responsibility to investigate the risks if I do not fully understand these risks.

4. Assumption of Risk - After considering the “inherent risks” and “harms” that may result, I voluntarily assume all “inherent risks” that I may encounter during participation in or transportation to, from or as a part of these activities, and I agree to be financially responsible for any “harms” that result.

5. Release – In consideration of my voluntary participation in these activities despite the inherent risks and harms associated with them, I release and forever discharge the University of Alaska, its Board of Regents, officers, agents, employees, and volunteers (hereafter “University”), from all liability and claims of any kind for any “harms” to me arising out of the activities that are listed in Paragraph 1 above. This includes claims for loss, expense, damages, punitive damages or attorney fees.

6. Other Providers - I understand that my assumption of risk and release and of the University apply regardless of whether this activity is operated, sponsored, or hosted in whole or in part by the University of Alaska or a third party.

7. Accommodations - I certify that I am in good health and I know of no medical reason why I am not able to participate. If I have a disability, food or drug allergy, dietary requirements or any other condition requiring accommodation, I will contact the activity director at least fourteen (14) days prior to the start of the activity.

8. Consent to Care - I consent to first aid, emergency medical care, and if necessary admission to a hospital for care and treatment for injuries or illness anytime during this activity.

9. Financial Responsibility - I understand that I am responsible for obtaining insurance and for any expenses that arise out of medical care. Upon my request and at my expense accident insurance may be available to me through the University.

10. Compliance with Rules - I agree that I will abide by all University policies, regulations, and procedures and by all local, state and federal laws.  If I fail to abide by these rules and laws, that may be a basis for denying or ending my participation in this activity.

11. Others Affected - I intend that this Agreement is and will be binding on my family, estate, heirs, successors, assigns, insurers, medical providers and personal representatives.

By my signature, I agree and represent that: I have entered into this Agreement on the basis of my own assessment of the risks involved and not in reliance upon representations of the University, its employees, officers or agents;  I understand that I have the right to consult an attorney of my choice before signing this Agreement;  I further understand that this Agreement contains our entire agreement, and that it cannot be modified except in a writing signed by me and the University;  Alaska law applies to this Agreement and any dispute will be resolved in the state court located in Alaska; If any part of this Agreement is found to be invalid or unenforceable for any reasons, the balance of the Agreement remains valid and enforceable; This a legally binding agreement designed to protect the “University” from claims that could be brought by myself or anyone else because of “harms” to me.

Today's Date: May 27, 2024

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