ASPA Member Highlight – Amanda Plante, Animal Research Ethics Specialist, Research Services and Ethics Office

Written by Karen E. Mosier

Amanda received her Bachelor of Science in Biology in 1994 from the University of Windsor and a MSc in Toxicology at the University in Saskatchewan in 1999. In addition, she is a yoga teacher with over 1000 hours in yoga training.

Amanda has worked at the University of Saskatchewan since 1998 when she started as research assistance for a professor in the Department of Biology. In 2002, she was hired as a Grants Officer in Research Services, focused primarily on science and engineering grants. In 2007, she accepted a new position in the Research Ethics Office as Animal Research Ethics Specialist. Amanda has also been employed as a yoga instructor at the PAC since 2010 and a yoga dance instructor with the University’s School of Dance program since 2014. She has taught yoga nidra at the Student Wellness Centre and through Wellness Resources for the past 3 years.

As the Animal Research Ethics Specialist, Amanda serves as the University’s Animal Care Committee (ACC) Coordinator. This is a position mandated by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) by all institutions that use animals for research, teaching and testing.  As the ACC Coordinator, she helps  manage and serves on the University Animal Care Committee (UACC) along with its various subcommittees, including the Animal Research Ethics Board (AREB), Facility Inspection Committee (FIC), Education and Training Committee (ETC), as well as the UACC Executive Committee.  Additionally, she also coordinates the OVPR Scientific Merit Review Committee for Animal-Based Research (SMRCABR) and the TSLE Pedagogical Merit Review Committee for Animal-Based Teaching and Learning (PMRC). The AREB is responsible to review all new and ongoing animal use protocols (AUPs) for ethical review. One of her key responsibilities includes attending AREB meetings and drafting the Notice of Ethical Review (NER) which is sent to the Principal Investigator following the meeting. She works with all PIs across campus whose research or teaching involves the use of animals.  Her duties are largely administrative, handling correspondence between researchers and the UACC.

What Amanda likes most about working at the university is her work, the people, and the atmosphere on campus. In particular, she enjoys being part of the animal ethics review process. She likes being on the committee that oversees the use of all animals at the University of Saskatchewan. She appreciates being able to learn about the wide variety of projects that are happening here at our university, from Cystic Fibrosis research in pigs, to wildlife studies on Sable Island, to infectious disease research at VIDO-InterVac. The wide range of studies means her work is never boring. From “microorganisms to bison”, they are all part of the animal ethics review process. Even after 12 years in the same office, there is never a dull moment, and there are always new questions that arise.

Ensuring animal welfare and balancing the research agenda to serve faculty is what motivates Amanda to always strive to do her best (for the greater good). Since an early age, Amanda has been concerned about animal care and use, This genuine interest in animal ethics easily motivates her in her current position.  She has been very fortunate to work with leaders like Dr. Ernest Olfert and Dr. Jane Alcorn who were always very supportive and empowering, to which she credits and helped encourage her ongoing commitment and contributions to the University.

Amanda believes that her education has definitely helped with her current position. Completing aMasters of Science degreegave her an understanding of the research process e.g., developing and testing hypotheses, experimental design, writing publications, etc. In addition, the research administration experience she gained in Research Services, prior to moving into her current position, provided further training and skills that are vital to her current role.

Amanda has been an ASPA member for almost 18 years. She was awarded a scholarship to attend the Empowering Women Leaders program co-facilitated by Lillas Hatala and Linda McCann in 2016. In 2017, she was nominated for the President’s Service Award.

What Amanda values most about being an ASPA member is her Collective Agreement. It provides her with a good salary, benefits and pension.  She did not have the security of these things when she worked on contract in biology when she first started on campus many years ago.  She worked from contract to contact, and this lack of stability and security was a stressful way to live. When she accepted a position within ASPA there was a huge sense of relief knowing that she was in a position that would provide an opportunity for growth, as well as a chance to save for the future. She is also grateful for her APDA funds, which she has used to complete a Business Administration Certificate through the Edwards School of Business (ESB) in 2016, in addition to taking other leaderships program through ESB since 2007. Amanda also appreciates the ability to have flextime to arrive at work late, stay late, or take off time to teach yoga on campus. Her advice to other ASPA members is, “Attend ASPA meetings to keep yourself informed. Support your executive and the bargaining team when it comes times to renew the collective agreements”.

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