The University Record, July 30, 1997

ULAM director is no 'Sunday driver'

Ringler in the U-M's animal care facility. Photo by Bob Kalmbach


By Rebecca A. Doyle

If Dan Ringler isn't making rounds checking on some of the 40,000 animals the University keeps for research and teaching, he may be out making rounds of another sort--around a race track at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour.

Ringler, director of the Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine (ULAM), oversees the quality of animal care on campus and makes sure that the University meets or surpasses standards for care and use of the animals as determined by federal and state laws and under research sponsors' guidelines.

Those regulations determine the size of the cage the animal is kept in, how often it is cleaned and how it is used in research or teaching, Ringler said as he demonstrated the sterile procedures his staff adheres to when feeding or handling any of the disease-free animals. "

Research animals receive better care than most pets," he says. The ULAM staff of 70 is charged with the care for and paperwork involved in keeping track of more than 30,000 mice, rats, Guinea pigs, voles and hamsters that make up the vast majority of animals used in research, primarily at the Medical School. But larger animals, including turtles, chickens, birds, rabbits, monkeys and sheep make up the balance of nearly 10,000 other animals that require regular care and feeding.

On weekends, Ringler leaves the rat race at work and begins another kind of race--one for the finish line. As a member of the Sports Car Club of America, Ringler drives his Chevrolet Camaro around tracks in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, and, for four of the five years he has been racing, has brought home trophies that are displayed in his trophy room.

Since Ringler began racing, he has consistently been a front-runner in his class, placing first or second this summer both on the three-state regional circuit with the Sports Car Club of America and on the track near Waterford as a member of the Waterford Hills Road Racing Club.

Not many people have a whole room devoted to trophies, but then, Ringler says, "Not very many people have a hoist in their garage, either." A fully equipped garage for working on the race car is attached to his house and the normal two-car garage, with a stack of racing tires filling space by the door. Explaining the need for protection, Ringler notes that he wears fully fireproof clothing, crash helmet, gloves and boots.

He shares the house and garage with his wife, Ariane, who has made it to every race over the past five years but one. The Ringlers watched races together when they were in high school, and now they share the excitement of Saturday races from a different perspective. Ariane, a kindergarten teacher, keeps track of the times for Ringler but says she would rather watch other drivers than her husband. "

The longer you are in racing, the greater the chances are that something will happen," she says. So with each passing year, she is a little more apprehensive. "But I keep telling him not to break his toy because it is so expensive to fix or replace."

Auto racing has not been the only way Ringler has chosen to satisfy his need for speed and competition. Before he began racing cars, he raced sailboats. His 36-foot Sabre was among the several hundred sailboats that brave the Lake Michigan waters to participate in the annual Port Huron to Mackinac race. Ariane says, though, that the sailboats were a sport that the whole family enjoyed before their children left home. "

The car is just Dan's," she says. "He's just like a kid in a candy store."

"It was a good weekend for racing," says Dan Ringler, director of ULAM and owner of car No. 81. Ringler took second place in two races last weekend at the Waterford Hills track near Pontiac and first place in the feature race on Sunday. He races at tracks in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Photo by Bob Kalmbach