UC Merced quietly goes about research

MERCED -- Research is an integral piece of academics at each of the 10 University of California campuses.

Still in its early years, UC Merced is ramping up its research programs, and hasn't experienced the protests against animal experiments that have become commonplace at campuses such as Berkeley and Santa Cruz.

As the campus grows, officials could see more threats and violence.

Currently, rodents are the only animals used for research at UC Merced. For example, one professor is researching diabetes and obesity with the rats, said Ana Nelson Shaw, UC Merced spokeswoman.

In a UC report in August, UC Merced, Riverside and Irvine noted no reported anti-animal research threats or attacks from 2005 to 2008.

Violence at UC Santa Cruz

The most vicious aggression against scientists came earlier this year. Firebombs struck the home and car of two UC Santa Cruz researchers this summer. In February, six masked protesters tried to force their way into a researcher's home.

Officials with the Foundation for Biomedical Research say the harassment is getting more relentless and personal.

Animal-rights proponents say the treatment against researchers is less severe than what animals endure.

UC Merced's location in the Central Valley -- an area commonly seen as more conservative than Santa Cruz or Berkeley -- might expose the campus to fewer threats from animal-rights extremists. But officials aren't taking anything for granted when it comes to safety.

"While we certainly hope that UC Merced will not be targeted, it would probably be fruitless to speculate about the choices animal extremists will make regarding our campus in the future," Shaw said. "We are certainly not counting on demographics or location to protect our researchers or animals."

With an enrollment of about 2,000 at UC Merced, students of all levels can participate in projects, not just graduate students.

"This is an important experience for students," Shaw said.

Shaw said anyone with access to UC Merced's research facilities learns the college's security procedures.

"They undergo training on security measures and ethics, and the right way to treat animals," she said.

UC Merced also abides by policies established by the UC system, and state and federal governments.