ASHLAND, Ore. -- Now that the government is back open, many federal employees are dealing with 35 days worth of backlogged work. That includes scientists at the U.S Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab in Ashland. It's the crime lab for animal law enforcement for the United States and more than 180 countries. During the government shutdown, only four out of the 30 people that work there—worked.
“I had two of our evidence technicians. I had my admin chief, Daryl and I. The four of us kept things going. We painted. We took care of shelves. We got a lot of busy work done that our scientists were better off not doing,” said Director Ken Goddard. “My admin chief was maintaining, among other things, these ultra-freezers to make sure they didn't fail because if they did fail we would lose some 20,000 DNA samples from all over the world. Things that took us 20 years to gather."
Now that the government is back open, all 30 employees are back. It’s busy playing catch up and getting things reorganized again. Johnnie French manages the more than 35,000 specimens that the lab uses for case work. He was one of the 26 people who were furloughed.
"I love coming here. I am fortunate to get to come here and do what I do and to not be able to come here for 35 days, it was disheartening. I couldn't do something that I love," French added.
There are some living things that died while the lab was closed, like most of the 500,000 flesh eating beetles that are used to clean bones.
"There might be 5,000 beetles in here before furlough I probably had 500,000 in here."
Since the government shut down, French said some the projects laid out for those beetles aren't done. Because he wasn't able to work, the lab also missed out on specimens employees were looking forward to.
The employees hope the same thing doesn’t happen in the next three weeks.