CALS & LAS Protocols for ISU Field/Farm-Based Research with COVID-19

Disclaimer: This document provides only general guidance. It does not cover all possible variations of field/farm research. Nor does it cover all scenarios.


General Policy

  • The primary goal of this guidance is the health and safety of our individual field/farm staff.
  • Most field research involve a relatively small number of staff, and the majority of the workload allows for proper physical distancing. Where possible, schedules should be developed to help stagger work assignments and work locations for physical distancing. For field research that employs larger groups, it is imperative to stagger work assignments in space and time to allow for physical distancing. If a necessary task requires two or more people to complete, they will implement safe distancing.
  • Instructions for field research will be communicated virtually prior to entering the field, when possible. Instructions will include health and safety reminders about physical distancing, hand hygiene, use of face coverings, etc.
    • In-field communication and coordination is also very important.
  • When appropriate, each team member will daily update their research tasks for the following day and the remainder of the season and store the document in a CyBox folder that is shared with the research team.  This document will be prepared with sufficient detail to allow another team member to fill-in for a researcher who needs to enter into self-isolation. 
  • Instructional videos will be created when possible to train new personnel in necessary research tasks.  These videos will provide baseline instructions which can be followed-up either virtually (preferred) or in person, but while maintaining at least 6’ of separation.

Health of Field/Farm Personnel:

Per the May 21, 2020 ISU Guide for Returning to the Workplace (aka Handbook), if you are working in the field/farm, you must monitor yourself for symptoms every day before reporting to work. If you have any symptoms potentially related to COVID-19, do not report to your worksite. Notify your supervisor and consult with your health care provider.

Currently, these symptoms include one or more of the following:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

If you have any of the following emergency warning signs of COVID-19, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent chest pain or pressure
  • New confusion
  • Inability to stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

Cloth Face Coverings and Face Shields

Cloth face coverings are homemade or commercially manufactured face coverings that help contain the wearer's respiratory emissions. The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings, particularly where physical distancing (i.e., 6 ft apart) is difficult to maintain (e.g., common workspaces in a barn, small boat, tractor, workrooms, meeting areas, research field sites, field labs, and classrooms).

ISU expects all employees to wear cloth face coverings while in the presence of others when other mitigation strategies are not available or an option. Employees shall consult with their supervisor about acquiring approved cloth face coverings.

Safe Distancing, Hand Washing, Disinfection, and Material Quarantining

  • Recommended physical distancing is 6 feet apart.
    • If interactions need to take place in person, they will be conducted with a minimum separation distance of 6 feet and ideally outdoors.  For example, as a rule-of-thumb, in a field planted at 35-inch (Curtiss Farm) or 30 inch (Agronomy Farm), row spacing would involve maintaining a minimum separation of 2 or 3 rows, respectively. Also, for example, in a 21-ft long boat 3 to 4 occupants could safely work with this 6-ft. physical distance and - if not an option due to other safety reasons - then the employees need to use face coverings.
  • All staff will wash hands when they arrive daily, at each break, and when they leave at the end of the shift. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Face shields are helpful in reducing the incidence of touching your face. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Daily disinfecting is recommended for commonly touched surfaces, for example, door handles, toilet handles, tools, steering wheels and hand controls of vehicles/tractors, etc. (including farm equipment), and keyboards. A daily checklist is recommended. Treat all common spaces and items as if they are contaminated.
  • Disinfect surfaces following best practices (70% alcohol or other approved disinfectants; be aware of contact time). Wipe surface with disinfecting wipe or spray with disinfectant and wipe with a paper towel. Allow surface to air dry for 10 minutes.
  • Wash hands immediately after disinfecting surfaces and after any potential exposure.
  • All research teams should supplement typical conventional cleaning with additional sanitation of work spaces and equipment.

Field/Farm Equipment and Supplies

  • Personnel should minimize interactions with others and the potential for cross-contamination at supply depots.
    • For example, personnel should not visit a central depot at the same time. 
    • When practical, each research team member will be assigned a personal tote with clasp-on lid that can be left in the field or personal vehicle. 
    • Each tote will be labeled with the name of the person to which it is assigned. 
    • Each person is responsible for stocking their tote as needed from a lab’s central supply depot. 
    • A central depot for each lab will be organized in such a way as to minimize opportunities for cross-contamination.
    • Team members should use the same work gloves, hats and other personal work gear and not share them among the team. Labeling may be needed to ensure this measure.
    • As much as possible, specific hand tools or hand-held devices should be assigned to the same team member consistently.
  • Each person will be assigned their equipment/space to operate and will maintain a minimum distance of 6-ft from other individuals. 
    • Often it will be possible to maintain much larger distances (e.g., by having personnel assigned to alternating parts of a field or farm). 
  • While distributing materials to coworkers in the field/farm, efforts will be employed to minimize opportunities for cross-contamination, e.g. wearing of gloves when handling items.
  • Some field/farm experiments require the use of machinery.  
    • When possible, a single person should operate the equipment.
    • Also, when possible, the same person should operate the same machinery unit (tractor, ATV, boat, etc.) from day-to-day.
    • A user log of heavily-used machinery may be helpful to monitor usage.
    • If two individuals are needed, practice physical distancing and use face coverings.
    • The only exception would be if two individual employees live together.
    • If physical distancing is not possible, pieces of plexiglass shielding will be installed between individuals to provide a physical barrier, if possible.  
      • Under this latter circumstance, personnel will wear face coverings (cloth masks or clear plastic face shields). 
      • Also, any components of the equipment that will be touched by both individuals will be sanitized to avoid cross-contamination (see cleaning guidelines above).
  • Cloth face coverings should not be used as a substitute for required respiratory PPE.

Facility Maintenance and Usage

  • All farm/field facility use should be coordinated by the supervisor with the facility/farm superintendent.
  • In facilities where multiple groups and PIs have ongoing operations, coordinate with other groups through the farm superintendent to ensure appropriate physical distancing.

 In-person events and activities must be registered in the University’s online Event Authorization System:


  • Consult current ISU guidance on business travel: (FAQ item EE21)
  • Travel within Iowa and the U.S. for university business is allowed, but must be pre-approved by the employee’s direct supervisor. Travelers should follow CDC guidance
  • International travel for university business remains prohibited in accordance with Board of Regents policy.
  • There are no restrictions on personal travel.
  • Travelers are encouraged to review travel restrictions they may encounter upon arrival at their destination. Please check the state and territorial health department websites for the latest information. 
  • More information about travel will be posted on the COVID-19 safety page, so keep checking the website.
  • For personnel who must travel in the State of Iowa or in the US to perform their research duties, follow University guidelines as set forth in the ISU handbook, which is to minimize trips that require more than one person in a vehicle.
  • If single occupancy is not feasible due to unlicensed drivers, unavailability of specific vehicles necessary for a task, or other limiting factors, all vehicle occupants must wear face coverings and must sit as far apart as the vehicle allows (while ensuring everyone is in a seat with a seat belt). Opening windows may be helpful, too.
  • All drivers and passengers are expected to wash or sanitize their hands before and after each trip.
  • Communicate via text, phone and email to avoid direct contact.
  • Check emails for changes and updates.
  • Text, call, or email questions, concerns or problems.

Guidelines for Preparation of Materials for Field Studies

  • Material preparation is to be conducted indoors in an on-campus laboratory. 
    • It is acceptable to prepare materials at home only with prior approval from supervisor provided it is safe to do so, i.e. non-hazardous. For example:
      • Seeds that have not been treated with pesticides, do not carry an unregistered transgene and are not associated with a material transfer agreement from a non-ISU source.
      • Assembly of a camera for installation.
      • Labeling of bags for sample collection.
    • If working in a laboratory, personnel will follow ISU handbook guidance.

Field/Farm Data Collection

  • A minimum of 6-ft will be maintained between individuals while collecting data collection. 
    • For example, if one person is measuring something, e.g. plant height, and another person is recording data, the two individuals must still be separated by a minimum of 6-ft.  
  • Some data collection projects involve the deployment and use of sensors, lasers, cameras etc. to continuously collect data, e.g. cameras to video plant growth.  In all cases, the installation and operation of these devices will be conducted in such a way as to maintain 6-ft of separation between individuals. Processes will be conducted in a manner designed to minimize the possibility of cross-contamination (see cleaning guidelines above).
  • In an open field or water body setting, if a 6-ft spacing is not possible, employees will wear cloth face and/or face shield coverings.

Laboratory Associated Activities

  • Some field-based projects may require limited laboratory access, e.g., for the stabilization of collected samples prior to long-term storage or the genotyping of individuals to determine appropriate genetic crossing strategies. 
  • If working in a laboratory, regardless of the laboratory location (campus or elsewhere), personnel will follow ISU COVID handbook guidance.

Think health and safety at all times.  Consult the following website for up-to-date guidance about COVID-19.

ISU Research Farms guidance is at:

Additional advice is available here: ​COVID-19 and Research​ web page in the ​Social Distancing and Mitigating the Risk of Transmission While Conducting Your Research ​section.

COVID-19 information for CALS faculty, staff, students

The below information is the most up-to-date and available at the time of distribution and includes college-specific guidelines. Please refer to the Iowa State University COVID-19 website frequently for updated information.

On this page:

CALS Response Team

CALS faculty and staff can contact the college response team to request assistance, report a problem, or share an idea of a creative, innovative approach to a recent challenge at or 515-294-0705. Team members are available during normal business hours – Associate Dean of Operations Mark Honeyman, chair; Haley Cook, CALS communications; Charley Turner, CALS student services; and David Wallace, CALS information technology. For assistance after hours reach out to the ISU Response Team helpline at 1-800-447-1985.

Face covering requirements

Cloth face coverings are required indoors in all university buildings, and outdoors in the presence of others.

Guidance for supporting community expectations, such as wearing face coverings and maintaining six feet of physical distance, during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on the Dean of Students Office website. The Scenarios Responses and Proactive Planning Tips webpage has examples of how to handle various scenarios of non-compliance with the community expectations.

The “Cyclones Care,” social responsibility campaign encourages compliance with COVID-19 mitigation strategies on campus and in the community. This includes signage and other materials and tactics. 

Student Information

Information for CALS undergraduate and graduate students for the fall semester classes can be found on the CALS Students: Fall semester information webpage.

Further information can be found on the Iowa State University Students FAQ webpage.

Fall 2020 graduation dates

Iowa State University’s Fall 2020 Commencement Ceremonies will be moved to a virtual format. The pre-recorded celebrations will be available for viewing beginning at 10 a.m. (central time) on Saturday, November 28, 2020. More information is available on the ISU Graduation and Commencement webpage.

Information about Fall 2020 CALS Convocation plans will be announced soon.

Spring 2021 plans

Spring semester classes will begin January 25, 2021. There will be no spring break - classes will be held the week of March 15-19, 2021. The spring semester, including final exams, will end May 6, 2021.

Course delivery will be in four delivery modes: face-to-face, online, hybrid and arranged. Classrooms and lecture halls will continue to have limited capacity.

Plans for an optional five-week online winter term are being finalized. This will include a selection of courses being offered Dec. 14, 2020, through January 21, 2021. This will offer students a way to work ahead in meeting their graduation requirements. More information will be made available soon.

COVID-19 testing for students, faculty, staff

Johnny's in Hilton Coliseum

Effective Sept. 8, students, faculty, and staff can get tested for COVID-19 at Johnny's in Hilton Coliseum if they are experiencing symptoms as indicated by the CDC or have been in contact with someone who has a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19. This testing site will be open Monday-Friday (10 a.m. – 6 p.m.) and Saturday (8 a.m. – Noon). The ISU pre-testing questionnaire is required before testing.

ISU Research Park, 2503 South Loop Drive

This drive-in testing site, operated by Mary Greeley Medical Center, will be open for testing 12:30-7:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Complete an online assessment at before scheduling an appointment by phone, 1-800-866-3492. Though the assessment is required and those with symptoms or contact with a person with COVID-19 are prioritized for scheduling, Test Iowa is available to individuals who don't have symptoms or known exposure.

Responding to positive COVID-19 test results

Students, faculty, and staff should immediately self-report if they test positive for COVID-19 by completing this form. Self-reporting is a safe and confidential process and will allow ISU’s Public Health Team to provide support to those who test positive. It is required that all students, faculty and staff self-report and self-isolate once they receive a positive COVID-19 test result. Supervisors may send out this message to notify employees of the positive case but the identity of the person who tested positive will remain confidential.

Visit the FAQ: Quarantine, Isolation and Contact Tracing webpage for additional information.

Iowa State now has a COVID-19 Public Health Data website that is being updated weekly with information about test results and isolation and quarantine cases and capacity.

Remote work, online course instruction support

Working from home: Faculty and staff are welcome to revisit their work from home arrangements as needed. Alternative work arrangement can be requested online, and details are available on the University Human Resources COVID-19 webpage.

  • IT Support for Working Remotely: For CALS, contact David Wallace,, for assistance, advice and support. ISU’s IT Solution Center is available, virtually. Report a problem by completing an incident form online, sending email ( or leaving a voicemail (515-294-4000). If you need immediate assistance or have a business-critical issue, leave a detailed voicemail with your Net-ID and phone number. You’ll receive an email confirmation, and an IT Solution Center representative will get back to you as quickly as possible.
  • The university's Zoom contract has been extended another 15 months for those currently licensed. Users who have not adopted a video conferencing platform are asked to use Webex. An enterprise version is available to all ISU faculty, staff and students. Learn how to gain access to and use Webex here.
    • Prevent “Zoombombing” - It has been reported that some Zoom users are experiencing "Zoombombing," where non-students join your Zoom session to disrupt a class or a meeting. These disruptions may involve sharing of racist, misogynistic or vulgar content. This also is possible for those using WebEx outside its Canvas Integration. ISU Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning has posted a workaround for both Zoom and WebEx to prevent this activity.

Travel and Study Abroad Updates

Check the university's Travel FAQ website for the latest information on travel restrictions in place. Questions regarding travel and international visitors can be directed to CALS Associate Dean David Acker,

Guidance on field trips, human subjects. Field trips and experiential academic experiences involving human subjects such as interviewing community members, service-learning projects, and internships (on, or off campus) should follow guidelines to promote and maintain safety. If guidelines cannot be met, the experience or trip should be cancelled. 

Fall study abroad programs that were scheduled to depart before Dec. 1, 2020, have been canceled. Iowa State made this difficult decision as a result of continued global concerns with COVID-19 and to allow students ample time to defer their study abroad to another semester and register for fall classes on campus. The university will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates when decisions are made on study abroad programs scheduled after Dec. 1. In CALS, one travel course, led by agronomy and animal science faculty, aimed to travel to New Zealand in November. That was canceled, impacting 24 students. Also, four CALS students who’d planned to spend the fall semester in Greece and the Netherlands will not be traveling, as the host schools have canceled those programs.

Questions about Study Abroad can be directed to CALS Study Abroad Program Coordinator Jodi Cornell,

Campus Events

Larger events on campus that have been canceled, postponed or altered (for example, moved online) are listed on the Iowa State University website.

Guidance on events — and a new requirement: A set of recommendations for all university events hosted at Iowa State has been posted on the COVID-19 Response events and venues page (see Event Guidance in right margin). This will help us work together to maintain a safe, welcoming environment that reflects not only best practices for reducing the spread of COVID-19, but also the need to consistently manage events using ISU grounds and facilities. Event hosts, including colleges, departments, administrative units, venues and student organizations, are now required to register events in the University Event Authorization System. Questions may be directed to Kurt Beyer, Risk Management,

Wellness Resources

  • Keep Community, Stay Informed, Be Well. Student Health and Wellness, in partnership with ISU WellBeing, has launched the Keep Community, Stay Informed, and Be Well campaign during remote work, online instruction and social distancing. Students and employees are navigating many changes, so prioritizing your well-being is essential. Check out the employee and student action plans on the link — you’re highly encouraged to work with your staff teams and provide to your students to fill out the action plans and prioritize your wellbeing.
  • If You’re Struggling - Don’t hesitate. Try the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) online chat feature for help and resources. Also, check the Health and Wellness links under Campus Resources on the ISU COVID-19 safety page. A new set of FAQs has been added to the ISU COVID-19 site to help manage stress and mental health concerns, and personal finance issues. See the Employees section, under General Guidelines, FAQs GG13-GG15.
  • Free virtual counselingCOVID Recovery Iowa offers free virtual counseling and assistance for all Iowans affected by COVID‑19. The Iowa Department of Human Services is partnering with Abbe Center for Community Mental Health Inc., Heartland Family Service, ISU Extension and Outreach, Pathways Behavioral Sciences and the University of Iowa to provide recovery resources, including:
    • Confidential counseling through the Iowa Concern Hotline
    • Virtual group activities, including yoga and cooking
    • Discussions about how COVID-19 has changed the workplace
    • Strategies to deal with stress — or help others dealing with stress — on the farm
    • How to avoid burnout and self-care tips
    • Question. Persuade. Refer. (QPR) suicide prevention training
    • Mental health first aid
    • Family financial consultations
    • Farm financial planning

We Are One: Advocate to Combat Bias

Theressa Cooper, CALS assistant dean of diversity, said worry about COVID-19 can trigger numerous reactions. This crisis affects members of our community differently. For some, concern about personal well-being and the health of family and friends may lead to anxiety, hypervigilance, inability to focus and difficulty sleeping. For others, fear and anxiety may contribute to broad generalizations and assumptions about China and people from other Asian countries. We must remember that we are one Cyclone family. Each of us are responsible for advocating on behalf of others to confront stereotype, bias and prejudice — that includes engaging in dialogue based on accurate information about the coronavirus, whether online or in public. Iowa State works hard to be a welcoming, accessible and inclusive campus; it is embodied in our Principles of Community. Watch for more virtual opportunities to build your cultural competency coming from Assistant Dean Cooper. 

Science-Based COVID-19 Resources for Ag and Natural Resources

CALS Farms Remain Functional

CALS farms are functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic, as much as possible, and are conducting essential operations while practicing social distancing. Farm superintendents and managers are available to discuss needs and processes with all farm users. Farm facilities are open for essential operations to ISU staff - group activities (tours, field days, etc.) are suspended.

COVID policies posted: All ISU farms’ locations have posted COVID-19 protocols/precautions near the farm entrances and office entry doors. The primary goal of this guidance policy is the health and safety of our individual farm staff. This set of farms includes Ag 450, Iowa Crop Improvement Association, BioCentury Research Farm, Animal Science Farms, FEEL Lab and more.

Reach out before visiting: Before traveling to ISU Research Farms across the state, please contact the farm manager. Prior knowledge of your arrival will help transport items from campus, make you aware of COVID-19 protocols and facilitate planning and coordination.

ISU Research Farms Series of Virtual Tours Begins Aug. 31
ISU Research and Demonstration Farms are hosting a series of interactive webinars on Aug. 31 through Sept. 4, from 8-8:30 a.m. The virtual field days will highlight this year’s research results with time for questions. Research farms across Iowa will be featured, with 20 minutes of in-field video, drone footage and presentations by ISU Extension and Outreach specialists. More information and the field days schedule can be found on the ISU Extension and Outreach Agriculture and Natural Resources website.

COVID-19 protocols at ISU Research Farms

Extension and Outreach

Extension and Outreach has put together a COVID-19 resources webpage with information regarding families and personal finance, Farmers Markets, food industry and food safety resources and tips for farmers.

Educational events across the state

ISU Extension and Outreach face-to-face educational offerings and events have been canceled and will be moved to an online format, as appropriate. Find local staff contact information online to confirm the status of local educational offerings. For guidance, review these considerations from John Lawrence, Vice President for Extension and Outreach.

Updates from the Office of the Vice President for Extension and Outreach can be found here.

Research Information

Find the latest announcements and guidance related to research during COVID-19 on the Office of Vice President for Research website.

Those who supervise employees, including students, in research settings should review guidance on the Employee FAQ webpage

Questions specific to CALS research continuity should be directed to CALS Senior Associate Dean Joe Colletti,, or CALS Associate Dean Manager Mark Honeyman,

Students Involved in Research

All Iowa State employees who are able to work remotely, as determined by their supervisors, are to work remotely. This directive applies to all graduate students, post-docs and undergraduate student workers. All meetings that can be virtualized should be virtualized, even one-on-one meetings with colleagues having offices or laboratories in close proximity. These actions should be taken immediately and to the maximum extent possible. 

Graduate students and research assistants should obtain specific guidance from their principal investigators, advisers, major professors and/or program directors, departments and/or the Graduate College.

CALS graduate students may submit concerns to CALS Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs Ruth MacDonald,, or CALS Senior Associate Dean Joe Colletti,

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