Field Safety


All individuals working in or entering UNDERC are responsible for conducting themselves and their operations in accordance with the proper procedures. Use of chemicals/radiation/ animals in the field must follow appropriate safety/health procedures (see above). UNDERC driving protocols must be followed while at UNDERC sites and when using UNDERC vehicles away from UNDERC sites. All protocols established by UNDERC’s partners, who permit use of their lands for education/research must be followed by UNDERC students and researchers. Personal responsibility and common sense are critical to the safety of you and others when working in field conditions.  

Behavior in the Field

Individuals working in or entering UNDERC field sites (including visitors and lands managed by UNDERC partners) must conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times. Horseplay and practical jokes are expressly forbidden. Visitors to UNDERC field sites must observe all safety regulations. Unattended children are not permitted in UNDERC field sites.

Proper Field Attire

Students and researchers working at UNDERC field sites are advised to wear appropriate attire for field conditions. This includes closed-toe shoes, long pants, and sun protection (including sunscreen). Weather conditions can change rapidly in the field, so UNDERC users are advised to bring warm clothes and rain gear with them when working in the field.


Students and researchers are only allowed to handle wildlife as part of class activities or research. Research may only be conducted on vertebrates with appropriate IACUC permits and other federal/state permits. Researchers and students are expected to comply with all permit and UNDERC guidelines with respect to animal research. Wildlife may not be kept as pets. Proper handling of animal subjects is set by IACUC and other federal/state permits, as well as various scientific organizations. Proper animal care is a part of responsible research. Wildlife can be dangerous.  Do not approach wildlife.

  • UNDERC-East.  Black bear can be dangerous, especially females with cubs. Snapping turtles can be dangerous - do not try to handle. Any wildlife can be dangerous (e.g., deer), especially when driving the narrow roads too fast and you try to avoid them.
  • UNDERC-West.  The National Bison Range is not a petting zoo. Bison are wild animals that can be dangerous and unpredictable. Other large ungulates (elk, deer, pronghorn) can also be dangerous, particularly during mating season. Black bears, grizzly bears and mountain lions live on the Bison Range, as do rattlesnakes and black widows. All of these wild animals can pose a risk to the safety of UNDERC users. Students and researchers should keep a distance of at least 100m between themselves and large mammals at all times. Vigilance and being aware of surroundings will help students and researchers avoid putting themselves into dangerous situations. If you find yourself close to a dangerous animal, slowly and calmly back away until you are a safe distance.


Safety precautions should be taken when working in field conditions:

  • First aid kits should be kept in any (personal, project or UNDERC) vehicle used for field research at UNDERC facilities. For research that is to be conducted far from a vehicle, a basic first aid kit should be taken with researchers to field sites. Sufficient food and water should be taken into the field at all times.
  • Undergraduates working at UNDERC facilities or its partner’s lands are not allowed to conduct field research alone, but must have another person with them in the field at all times. Researchers should fill out appropriate logbooks when going into the field so that UNDERC staff know the general vicinity they will be in and approximate return time.
  • Insect bites/ticks can be abundant at UNDERC field sites, personal hygiene is critical to avoid infections and to be aware of the potential for possible illness.
  • Rattlesnake bites should be treated by staying calm and going immediately to the hospital emergency room, never by first aid.

Accidents, Hazards, and Injuries

All accidents resulting in injury or damage must be reported immediately to other individuals in the area who might benefit from this information. Accidents must then promptly be reported to the Director or Assistant Director during the spring-summer field season and to the Property Manager (UNDERC-East) at other times during the year. Unsafe field conditions and/or practices by personnel or visitors must be similarly reported whether or not they result in injury or damage. Emergency telephone numbers are posted by the telephones in the research laboratories. These numbers should be carried into the field for cell phone use.


Researchers and students at UNDERC facilities may use UNDERC vehicles if they have completed the driver’s training.  Vehicles must be signed out prior to use. People using UNDERC vehicles must obey all speed limits and traffic laws. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is strictly prohibited. Any incidents involving UNDERC vehicles must be reported to the Assistant Director or the Director. 

  • UNDERC-East. The speed limit on all roads is 15 mph.
  • UNDERC-West.  The speed limit on the National Bison Range is 25 mph.

Boat Safety

Undergraduates are required to practice proper boat safety when using the lakes/streams at UNDERC. This includes taking personal floatation devices for each person in a boat. In addition, there is a boating log in the Hank Lab, where the students write who is taking the boat, which lakes/bogs/streams that they will be using, and what approximate time they plan on returning. UNDERC staff use this log to monitor student use of the property. In cases where there are severe weather or boating warnings issued by the National Weather Service, the nature of the warning is written on the log and boating is prohibited. If students fail to return at the specified time, UNDERC staff will attempt to locate the students. Any use of the lakes/bogs/streams by the undergraduates without using the log will result in loss of boating privileges, determined by the Assistant Director.