Exploring this Job
Learn as much as you can about the various types of biothreats—from plants and animals to viruses, bacteria, fungi, or other toxins that occur naturally or that are human made. Two good resources of information are the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (https://www.aphis.usda.gov) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (https://www.idsociety.org).
Other ways to learn about the field include taking biology and health classes, participating in an information interview with a biosecurity monitor, and attending summer biology or public health exploration programs at colleges and universities.
Biosecurity monitors have a wide range of duties. First of all, they try to prevent the entry of invasive and harmful plants and animals into the United States—or, if they are already in the country, stop their spread and eliminate them if possible. At airports and other ports of entry, they inspect and monitor cargo for pests and test agricultural produce, animal feeds, and fertilizers for the presence of prohibited insects or seeds from plants that have been banned for import. If they detect a banned plant, animal, or other product, they destroy it or assign a pest control technician to do so.
Surveillance is another important duty for biosecurity monitors. They travel to farms, wetlands, forests, other natural areas, and even people’s homes to make inspections to determine if Asian longhorned beetles, giant African snails, or emerald ash borers, for example, are present. If a harmful insect, other animal, or plant is detected, they destroy the pest using pesticides, traps, or other methods, or they establish a deadline for the landowner to do so. Later, they revisit the location to determine if the pest has been removed.
Biosecurity monitors also work to prevent or limit the spread of infectious outbreaks that can affect cattle, swine, sheep, poultry, horses, goats, and even fish and shellfish being raised via aquaculture. If an infectious disease outbreak occurs at a large poultry farm, biosecurity monitors at nearby unaffected farms would initiate a serious of steps to stop the spread of infection to their farms. They would limit non-essential traffic to the farm, disinfect the vehicles of visitors to the property, close all but one road for entrance/exit, provide disposable footwear to visitors and employees and increase the number of wash stations that are available, and more closely monitor their poultry to ensure that the disease has not spread.
Biosecurity monitors at a laboratory or other research facility establish new or follow existing biosecurity guidelines to ensure that infectious diseases or other harmful biological agents do not escape the controlled environment of the facility. They conduct risk assessments of the facility’s prevention and containment procedures; identify potential risks and create solutions to fix them; train other monitors and/or staff regarding biosecurity prevention and emergency response procedures, methods, and protocols; and monitor employees to ensure that they follow biosecurity safety procedures when coming and going from the facility and performing other activities.
Other duties for biosecurity monitors include writing detailed reports about their daily activities, learning about new biosecurity threats and developing plans to stop them, and educating the public about how to identify biosecurity threats and reduce their spread.