Johnson Animal Research and Teaching Unit




The Joe Johnson Animal Research and Teaching Unit (JARTU) is a University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture multi-purpose facility dedicated to providing controlled research and learning opportunities with livestock and other animals.  JARTU is an AAALAC-accredited facility and contains three wings with over 35 laboratories.  Laboratory capabilities are diverse and include suites devoted to captive animal rearing, reproductive physiology, microbiology, molecular techniques, zoonotic pathogens, necropsy, and aquatics.  Past and ongoing research includes evaluating stressors and mechanisms of embryo development in livestock, reproductive performance associated with mastitis, consequences of feed type on livestock production, molecular mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis and drug resistance, wildlife reservoirs of zoonotic pathogens, fish physiology, and amphibian diseases.  Below is a description of the laboratories dedicated to research with aquatic vertebrates. 


Aquatics Laboratory


The JARTU Aquatics Laboratory consists of two rooms (C110 and C111) dedicated to fish and amphibian physiology and disease research.  The laboratories contain flow-through capabilities with declorinated water supplied to chilling-heating units for temperature-controlled studies.  In total, over 100 20-gal flow-through tanks can be operated simultaneously.  The laboratory also contains shelving space for smaller stagnant systems which are frequently used for replicated studies with tadpoles.  Several 200-gal tanks are available for holding animals prior to experiments.  Ongoing studies include quantifying species-specific susceptibility of amphibians to ranaviruses, investigating the impacts of natural and anthropogenic stressors on disease emergence in amphibians, and measuring bioaccumulation of microcystin-LR in catfish. 



Top row: Trane chilling-heating unit, 20-gal flow-through tanks, and 200-gal holding tanks in C111.

Bottom row: Flow-through tanks in C110 (left, middle) and walk-in cooler in C111 (right).



Left & Middle: Rack and small containers (1-L) used in tadpole experiments in C111;

Right: Invertebrate cultures for larval salamanders and post-metamorphic amphibians.


BSL-2 Laboratory: 


This laboratory (C112) is dedicated to culturing microbial pathogens (e.g., Escherichia coli O157:H7) and work with wildlife pathogens (e.g., ranaviruses).  Conventional PCR is available for testing pathogen infection.



Middle & Left: C112 lab, gel electrophoresis photo documentation system and themocycler (inset);

Right: Biosafety hood and -80C freezer.



Outdoor Mesocosm Site


The aquatic mesocosm site is located south of JARTU.  The site is fenced with gravel and has a permanent water supply for filling outdoor tanks.  The tanks typically used are circular cattle tanks (300 gal.) or wading pools (50 gal.) made of polyurethane or plastic.  The latter often are used to raise tadpoles from egg masses for experiments in the JARTU aquatics laboratory.   


Wading Pools: 



Site entrance and boot bath with disinfectant (left), wading pools with shade cloth lids (middle),

and tadpoles being added to a pool after a water change (right).


Cattle Tanks: 




Cattle-tank array (middle), adding tadpoles to a mesocosm (left), and netting tadpoles (right).

Dr. Jason Hoverman (right) is wearing biosafety PPE for an E. coli O157 study.



Lead Scientists:   Dr. Matthew Gray, Dr. Jason Hoverman, Dr. Debra Miller, Dr. Ted Henry, Dr. Richard Strange, Dr. Larry Wilson, and Dr. Alan Mathew.


Collaborators:     UT East Tennessee Research and Education Center, UT Departments of Animal Science and Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station, UT Center for Wildlife Health, University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine




UT Center for Wildlife Health


UT Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries