On Monday morning, the animal laboratory technicians who work at 10 Amistad St. showed up for work. It was the first time they had done so since the body of Annie Le GRD ’13, a 24-year-old doctoral candidate in pharmacology, was found in the facility more than one week ago.
Le’s slaying, and the subsequent arrest of animal technician Raymond Clark III, has cast a national spotlight on the work of Yale’s animal laboratory technicians, whose job it is to aid researchers and ensure that laboratory space complies with federal regulations on animal treatment. And now, they are grappling with the fact that police charged one of their own in a grisly murder.
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“It’s been challenging,” said James Macy, who directs the Yale Animal Resources Center. “Folks are just trying to reconcile this whole thing.”
On Thursday morning, the police arrested Clark, 24, in the murder of Le. University spokesman Tom Conroy later said that Yale did not disable Clark’s identification card, which gave him access to the 10 Amistad St. facility, until after his arrest — four days after Le’s body was found. Clark had worked at Yale as an animal husbandry technician since 2004.
In that capacity, Clark helped to care for the rodents in Amistad’s basement laboratory and to make sure that researchers complied with animal subject regulations.
“They’re servicing the cages, changing the cages, taking care of the animals,” Macy said of the animal technicians’ role. On any given day, there are five or six animal technicians working closely with researchers at the Amistad facility, Macy said. He said he did not know how many animal technicians the University employs in all.
At present, Yale’s human resources Web site lists six job openings for the position of “Animal Technician 3,” the post Clark held until his arrest.
Required skills include the ability to lift at least 50 pounds; to observe and evaluate animals for signs of illness; and to maintain, sanitize and decontaminate animal rooms, according to the listing. The job pays between $18.71 and $25.44 per hour.
Immunology professor Mark Shlomchik’s lab spends about $500,000 per year on animal care, Shlomchik said. Animal technicians keep the animals in order, Shlomchik said, and keep researchers updated on animal conditions and any problems the animals develop.
Slomchik, who has done mouse-based research at Yale for more than 16 years, said animal technicians are invaluable. They are “our eyes and ears in the animal room [because] without them we really couldn’t get done what we need to get done,” he said.
Macy said he felt the technicians had been treated unfairly by the media. In his opinion, he said, Le’s murder was a “unique, one-off situation” and not indicative of any systemic problems between the technicians and the researchers with whom they work.
One animal technician, Samantha Sheppard, who has worked at Yale for just over a year, said she has never had any negative experiences with researchers in her lab and their interactions, for the most part, have been positive. Moreover, she said she finds the work challenging — mentally and physically — and feels like she is contributing to researchers’ work.
Sheppard, who has worked for YARC for just over a year, currently works at an animal laboratory at the Sterling Hall of Medicine — one of the buildings in which Le used to work.
The news of Clark’s arrest shocked Sheppard. Clark’s sister and brother-in-law also work in the department — although Macy would not say whether they have returned to work since Clark’s arrest.
“I know that [Clark] does have a lot of friends and family here in the department, which has been made pretty obvious to everyone,” she said. “You see these people every day — you become very familiar with them.”