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Cross-Section of African Elephant Tail Hair. Credit: USFWS

About the Laboratory

VOLUNTEERS AT THE FORENSICS LAB

Volunteering at the Lab. Credit: USFWS

Volunteering at the Lab. Credit: USFWS

Volunteers play an important role in many projects that are vital to the National Forensics Laboratory. Our volunteers range from high school and college students to senior citizens.

There are two types of volunteers at the Forensics Lab:  clerical and technical.

  • Clerical volunteers create and maintain data support for the scientists at the Lab.  They type lists of species, create data bases and organize and maintain freezer data bases of all the standards in the Lab collection.
  • Technical volunteers assist in developing techniques to identify species and to determine the genetic variability of a particular taxa.  They also prepare specimens for the Morphology standards collection.

In order to understand the type of projects that the volunteers do, let's look at a hypothetical situation — an agent finds a partial carcass that he believes is a goose, but all that is left are several feathers.  He would send those feathers to the Lab where a scientist would compare them to the specimens in the Morphology standards collection and make an identification.

On the other hand, if all that was left was a piece of tissue, the agent would send it to the Lab where a scientist would compare the sample to the 20,000 entries in the Lab's freezer data base to determine what type of animal it came from.  Every animal that we deal with at the Lab, we have to compare with a set of known standards to identify.  Creating this set of known standards, whether as a computer data base or as a mounted specimen, is what the volunteers do for the Lab.  Volunteers never have access to evidence or deal with law enforcement cases.

VOLUNTEER APPLICATION

You may download a Volunteer Application (PDF 166 KB) or contact us to have one sent to you (or you can come in in person). Fill it out and send it back to the Lab. We'll see that the right person receives it, reviews it and responds to it. 

Thank you for your interest, but please be aware that the Lab has limited working space for volunteers, so, at times, we have to decline a volunteer application.

SPECIAL NOTE: We currently have a internship opportunity at the Laboratory. Click Here for details.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT VOLUNTEERING AT THE LAB

What kind of background do I need to have to volunteer at the Lab?

To be a clerical volunteer you need to have data entry background and be familiar with PCs.  This need at the Lab is infrequent and sporadic.

A technical volunteer needs to have analytical skills such as operating and interpreting a mass spectrometer or DNA analysis.  A degree in biochemistry, chemistry, molecular biology, physics or medical technology is helpful.

Do I need experience in the area where I volunteer or will you train me?

In some instances, if you have the necessary background and training can be done in a short period of time, then, we will train you.  But, unfortunately, in most cases, we can't spare the time to train people.

How old do I have to be to volunteer?

Because of the nature of the types of things that the Forensic Lab deals with, volunteers need to be at least 16.

As a volunteer, how much time do I need to spend at the Lab a week?

That is decided between the volunteer and his supervisor, but we encourage a technical volunteer to work at least 8 hours a week and a clerical volunteer to work at least 4 hours a week.

If I'm accepted as a volunteer, can I come in anytime that I want to?

Yes, within the times that the Lab is open, which is Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The exact schedule would be worked out with your supervisor.

If I'm in high school, can I volunteer as my Senior Research Project?

Each year the Lab accepts one local high school student to give students in the Rogue Valley an opportunity to excel in science.  The student chosen must be highly motivated, show academic excellence and a working ethic that distinguishes them above all other applicants.  If you are interested in this opportunity, contact Ed Espinoza, Deputy Laboratory Director, via phone (541) 482-4191 or via email at Ed_Espinoza@fws.gov.

OK, I'm sold.  I have the qualifications and the time and I'd love to become a volunteer at the National Forensics Laboratory.  Now what do I do?

We're glad that you're interested!  You may download a Volunteer Application (PDF 166 KB) or contact us to have one sent to you (or you can come in in person). Fill it out and send it back to the Lab. We'll see that the right person receives it, reviews it and responds to it. 

Thank you for your interest, but please be aware that the Lab has limited working space for volunteers, so, at times, we have to decline a volunteer application.

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