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Laboratories Management Print
La Selva Laboratories Management and Safety Procedures
Laboratory facilities | Working hours and personnel schedule | Facilities included | General management rules | Research asistants | Working spaces | Shade houses | Stockrooms | Laboratory instruments and equipment | Refrigerators and freezers | Ovens and dryers | Supplies and glassware | Computers | Other facilities | Courses | Chemical Management | Laboratory Chemical Supplies | Using chemicals in the lab | Chemical waste management | Safety and general precautions

General information

La Selva offers 1000 m2 of laboratory infrastructure where station users can have personal working space with or without Air Conditioning (A/C). OTS promises to provide desk or laboratory bench space (approximately 1.5 m of desk or bench space) to all station researchers. Additional space may be rented upon request. The Laboratory Manager assigns office and lab space and must be notified ahead of time of special needs. La Selva currently has office and lab space as follows: 67 office spaces contained in 35 air-conditioned offices with locking door (approximately two researchers per office), 16 lab bench spaces in the Analytical (New) Lab, 4 desk spaces in open air-conditioned space, 8 bench spaces in the Ambient temperature and humidity Lab, 6 desk spaces in the Biodiversity building, 2 bench spaces in the Molecular Lab and 2 bench spaces in the Bothrops Lab (A/C can be adjusted to researcher’s needs). This total of 109 potential lab/office spaces includes space used by scientific staff (approximately 6 spaces), long-term projects (22 spaces) and the MRI facility (3 spaces).

Laboratory facilities:

  1. Working hours and personnel schedule
    All lab facilities are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can be used by all resident students and researchers at the station. Researchers have access to basic equipment and spaces at any time during the day.
    Lab personnel (manager and technician) work during office hours, Monday to Saturday from 7:00 am to 5 pm and on Sundays from 7:00 am to 4 pm. The entire station has power supply all day. A backup electrical generator is automatically set if the external electricity supply fails.

  2. Facilities included
    WIFI internet connection throughout the station
    Public computer room which provides Internet service and work space for researchers
    Eight 4 x 10 m shade houses
    Analytical Laboratories
    Ambient lab, which is a screened area mainly designed to process gross samples
    Library and office space for researchers
    La Selva’s lab facility also offers equipment such as: compound and dissecting microscopes, scales, ovens, refrigerators and freezers, public phone and fax. A list with more details about these and other technical equipment available can be found at our web site:

  3. Laboratory general rules
    Environmental protection is one of OTS’ primary objectives. For this reason, complete treatment of chemical wastes is required when possible. The Lab manager or assistant should be asked any questions about chemical management, disposal and storage.

    We request that all users cooperate with efforts to save energy. Turn off the lights and equipment when they are not in use including the extractor hoods and bathroom fans. Also, close all outside doors to avoid A/C leaks.

    When working in the lab, goggles and lab coats must be used. Gloves and masks appropriate for procedure must be used when necessary (i.e. neoprene gloves for acids, asbestos gloves for hot objects). Vapor hoods, with the air extractor on, are to be used when working with hazardous volatile materials with the fume shield partially closed to protect against splashes. Safety goggles must always be used when working in the vapor hood. All safety materials (aprons, goggles and masks) are provided in the lab.

    Classify your garbage (glass, paper, plastic bottles, aluminum cans and alkaline batteries) and put it in the proper containers located outside the lab.

    All solutions and samples should be labeled with the owner’s name, project name and identification of their contents.

    Balances, pH meters and the leaf area meter are regularly calibrated by a lab technician. If researchers need to calibrate this equipment, please consult the lab personnel before doing so.

    Refrigerator and freezer space is provided by OTS to store solutions or samples. All solutions and samples must be properly labeled (as stated above). Solutions must be stored in their own containers, not in lab glassware. Stored material that is not properly labeled can be discarded without warning.

    Minor disposable items such as rubber gloves, bags, desiccants, plastic boxes, etc. can be purchased from the lab.

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  4. Research assistants
    If needed, La Selva can help researchers to hire an assistant or worker from Puerto Viejo or other areas of Costa Rica. This is coordinated by La Selva’s accounting department. When a project or researcher hires a non-resident assistant to work in the lab, a lab use monthly fee per person must be paid.

    *Workers or Project Assistants whose responsibilities do not include the use of lab facilities are not allowed to use the laboratory.

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  5. Working spaces
    The Lab Manager or Assistant is responsible for assigning each researcher that arrives at La Selva to a working space in the lab for his/her use. It can be a desk in an office, or a lab bench, depending on his/her needs and on the availability of lab space. If this is not enough and the researcher (or project) requires more space in the laboratory, a fee for extra lab space must be paid. This reserves the space for his/her exclusive use or for a non-resident assistant.

    When the researcher is leaving the station for more than two weeks, the space must be vacated.
    Researchers and assistants can keep a space reserved for their use during their absence if they pay extra lab space fees.

    When leaving La Selva, the researcher must leave the space empty and clean. Any remaining objects will be discarded.

    When station occupancy is low, the use of a vacant extra working space over a short period of time could be free of charge if coordinated with the Lab Manager or Technician. The use of a cabinet considered part of the lab space, researchers may bring a padlock for his/her cabinet.

    Spaces such as tables with equipment (i.e. scales or chromatographs), vapor hoods and sinks are for general use and will not be assigned to any particular person. If someone needs to leave work material in one of these places, he/she must inform the Lab Assistant, and the owners name and project must be written clearly on the object(s).

    *When the labs are cleaned, La Selva will not be responsible for expired reagents or abandoned objects that are not labeled.

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  6. Shade houses
    The station has eight 40 m2 shade houses with different grades of shade cloth and the capacity for six tables in each one. One shade house has plastic roof and all of them have double doors. To reserve space in shade houses and determine the fee, arrangements must be made with the Lab Assistant.

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  7. Storage rooms
    Storage for researchers’ belongings in storage rooms is limited and is only offered when the researcher is absent from the station. The service is free for persons spending more than 30% (110 days) of the year at the station and for those who store packages for less than one month. Otherwise, researchers must pay a storage fee. A limited A/C storage area is available for sensitive equipment and samples that require A/C. Keep in mind that the available space under A/C is very limited!

    Storage of belongings in the laboratory storerooms must be agreed upon previously with the Lab Staff. There are specific areas to store chemicals, glass ware and batteries. For security reasons, a form must be filled out and the user must keep a copy of this form to confirm the storage of equipment or samples. The following information must be provided:

      1. Name
      2. Storage date
      3. Removal date
      4. Owner’s telephone and e-mail address
      5. Indication whether or not the equipment needs to stay in air
      6. Type of materials to be stored

    If a researcher does not return to the station in six months and does not pay the storage fee, the station will either donate or dispose of the stored material.

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  8. Laboratory instruments and equipment
    Analytical equipment: The laboratory has basic lab equipment such as scales, microscopes, magnetic stirrers, centrifuges, water baths, etc. The user must know the equipment’s function, operation, care and maintenance. If not, the user must request help from the Lab Assistant or the Lab Manager.

    Any equipment or instruments used should be returned in good and clean condition. Researchers cannot move any OTS equipment without the Lab Manager’s authorization.

    Some instruments such as the gas chromatographs, the lyophilizer, and the spectrophotometer, are of limited use and are to be used only by researchers who have previous experience with them. Use of these instruments must be coordinated ahead of time so the Lab Manager or the Lab Assistant can supervise or help with the setup of the instrument and the analytical procedure. Remember to register your name in the log of each instrument that requires it.

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  9. Refrigerators and freezers
    The refrigerators and freezers are for public use to store samples and reagents. They are NOT allowed for food storage. The user should ask the Lab Assistant for assigning space in them. The refrigerators and freezers are intended for use only during the researcher’s stay at the station. Any stored material must be clearly labeled with the following information:

      1. Researcher’s name
      2. Project name
      3. Content (Name of the reagent, sample, etc.)
      4. Preparation date
      5. Expiration date (if applicable)
      6. Date in which it will be taken out of the refrigerator or freezer

    If you need to keep things in refrigerators and freezers after leaving the station, the Lab Assistant or the Lab Manager must be informed. Depending on the volume used, a fee of $10/month will be charged for this service.

    Regularly, the lab personnel will review the contents of refrigerators and freezers. If there is food or objects that do not contain the above information, if the owner is not at the station any more, or if the storing date has expired, they will be disposed.

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  10. Ovens and dryers
    The lab facility has 8 ovens and one dryer, constantly working at ~70 °C. To reserve an oven or a space in an oven, arrangements must be made with the lab assistant and should include the type of samples to be dried and the temperature to be used. The data sheet posted on each unit should be filled out for the respective days. When using an oven, the temperature should be checked periodically as a safety measure for fire. Do not overload the ovens and please leave space between the samples. For leaf litter and other samples with high amount of water, a pre-dry process should be made to avoid corrosion of the units. After using it, the oven should be turned off and cleaned.

    There are ovens marked “La Selva Biological Station #” that are for public use and can be signed out by individual projects (the ovens without that sign, belong to specific projects and thus are not available).

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  11. Supplies and glassware
    The laboratory maintains basic glassware available for researcher use. After using glassware, it must be cleaned and dried. Any questions about the washing routine should be directed to the lab assistant. Any broken material must be reported to the Lab Assistant or the Lab Manager and disposed of in the appropriate container. It will be charged to the researcher or course account.

    Researchers are encouraged to tell the Lab Staff how much of the laboratory’s supply of disposable materials such as latex gloves or vials they will need. The disposable materials will be charged to the researcher/project account. The laboratory has materials for public use, such as those located in the balance room and in the lateral drawers.

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  12. Computers
    The station has 5 computers located in the Academic Center that are available for public use.

    Changing computer configuration or programs is not allowed. If someone needs to install a program for his/her work, he/she must inform the Lab Manager and it must be uninstalled after use. Users should keep all their files backups because cleaning of the public directories on the hard drive of the public computers is done regularly and all files in these directories are erased periodically.

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  13. Other facilities
    A photocopy machine is located in the administrative area, but users must ask for permission from Reception to use it. It is not available during weekends. Photocopies can also be made at the bookstore in Puerto Viejo.

    Telephone calls: There is a public phone beside the weighing room in the new lab. This phone can be used for internal calls or external calls if you have a code. Codes are only given to researchers who are staying longer than a month and are given out at Reception (at the end of the month the user will be charge for the external phone calls that have been made). Some offices have a phone that can be used for internal and external calls as well.

    Fax: The Station has a fax machine in the in the Administrative offices.

    Bicycles: The Station offers bicycles for researchers. Ask the Reception Staff about this service.

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  14. Courses
    Courses will not have an assigned lab space, because the Academic Groups coordinator assigns them a classroom and lab space at the Academic Center building. If a student or a group of students need to use the lab facilities for their project, a temporary lab space can be assigned. However, they must be supervised by the course staff. When a course is planning to use the laboratory facilities, this must be indicated in the reservation, and a tour with the Lab Manager or the Lab Assistant must be scheduled. Lab equipment like computers, microscopes, scales, refrigerators, and freezers are available for students under the same conditions as they are for researchers. Other lab equipment, such as the spectrophotometer and pH meters, can be used by students only under the supervision of the Laboratory Manager or the Lab Assistants.

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    Chemical substance management

  15. Laboratory Chemical Supplies
    The Laboratory supplies some basic chemical reagents (e.g. ethanol, acetone, etc.) for general lab procedures. If your study needs specialized chemical reagents or high amounts of general chemical reagents, the laboratory staff can help you buy the required chemicals with local providers or online and they will be brought to La Selva for you. OTS charges a 22% fee of the cost for this service. The use of some hazardous chemicals may be banned, taking into account exposure limits thresholds, health risks and waste disposal.

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  16. Using chemicals in the lab
    The use of chemicals in La Selva must be approved by the Scientific Director and the La Selva Advisory Committee (LSAC). If a researcher wants to bring chemicals to La Selva, it has to be reported to the Laboratory Manager or to the lab assistant. For basic security, all bottles and containers must be clearly labeled with the following information:

      1. Name of the substance (sample or regent).
      2. Date of preparation.
      3. Project and owner’s name.

    The Lab Manager must receive a list of all the chemicals that a researcher brought to the station with the following information from each one of them:

      1. Name and formula of chemical
      2. Quantity
      3. Toxicity
      4. Wastes produced and deactivation protocols

    Researchers must not use chemicals if he/she is not familiar with the dangers or procedures for using them. The precautions specified on the label must be followed. If the information is not complete or clear, you may refer to the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). If you need further information, ask the Lab Manager.

    If the researcher needs to carry hazardous chemicals through the corridors of the Laboratory he/she may use a transport bottle. These can be found next to the hoods or in the chemicals stockroom.

    When storing chemicals, incompatible materials must be placed separately. Heavy containers and hazardous chemicals must not go on the shelves. There are special places to store strong acids, bases and organic solvents (these should be kept away from fire, high temperatures, or equipment that can produce sparks). The Lab Manager or Lab Assistant should be consulted if there are questions about storage.

    If a researcher needs to keep compressed gas cylinders in the lab, they must be secured in a vertical position with chains or straps. To transport tanks, the lab has is a special cart with a chain to secure the tank. If the cylinders are not in use, the exit valve should be protected with a safety lid.

    When working with hazardous chemicals, goggles, gloves, mask (of the appropriate type) and lab coat must be used. The gloves have to be resistant to the chemicals being used. There are asbestos gloves suitable to manipulate hot objects or equipment. Vapor hoods are to be used when working with hazardous volatile materials. The fume hood door should be partially closed to protect against splashes, and safety goggles must always be used. To use the hood, the air extractor must be on. The hoods must be left clean and dried after being used.

    Safety materials such as goggles, masks and disposable gloves are available in the lab. Researchers must bring their own lab coats.

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  17. Chemical waste management
    The user will be responsible for all chemical wastes produced during his work. Acids and inorganic bases must be neutralized and diluted before washed down the drain. Most organic solvents wastes can be sent to be recycled in different companies in Costa Rica.

    Anyone who uses a chemical or obtains a product that cannot be treated as in the previous paragraph will have to provide all the necessary reagents and protocols for its deactivation and will have to conduct the deactivation themselves.

    The researcher can ask the Lab Manager for standard methods used for deactivation of chemicals.

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Safety and general precautions

Blocking the access to fire-extinguishers, showers, sinks or exits of the Laboratory must be strictly avoided.

Smoking or eating is not permitted in the Labs.

The electrical circuits in the Laboratory are 115 V AC, 60 Hz, 15 Amp. They must not be overloaded.

Do not use multiple exit connectors unless they have their own individual fuse. Before using any electronic equipment, the researcher should carefully read the corresponding manual and/or ask the Lab Manager. Electrical extension cords can be used only temporarily. These should not go under doors, across corridors or hang from the ceiling. If a researcher needs to use additional electrical connections for a long period of time, the Lab Manager should be informed. Working areas must be kept dry when working with electrical devices.

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Last Updated ( 09/03/12 )
Organization for Tropical Studies
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