Jennifer L. Buff, Education Program Manager, Conservation and Research Center
Conservation and Science
B.A. in Philosophy, California State University, Sacramento
Professional History and Interest
Jennifer Buff is the education program manager for the Zoo's Conservation and Research Center. She came to the National Zoo in 1992 as a biological technician, working in the Department of Reproductive Sciences Gamete Laboratory and coordinating logistics for teams of reproductive scientists, geneticists, and other wildlife professionals around the world to conduct research and offer training courses. In addition, she was instrumental in developing an innovative science outreach program, which linked the real-life science (and scientists) at the Zoo with inner-city school children. Scientists-in-the-Classroom gave students the opportunity to learn that science is not only exciting and interesting, but also necessary to understanding and conserving the natural world.
Ms. Buff moved to Zoo's Conservation and Research Center (CRC) in Front Royal, Virginia, in 1997 to lend her knowledge and experience to the creation of a conservation education program that draws on the unique strengths of Zoo science and animal care staff to meet the needs of K-12 educators. Highlights of her work include the creation and implementation of major teacher training initiatives in conservation science, such as: Read and Write with Wildlife, Amphibian Monitoring Methods, Bird ID and Monitoring Techniques, Basic Tree Identification, and the week-long Biodiversity Monitoring Institute.
The capstone for CRC education programs is an innovative school-scientist partnership initiative, the Biodiversity Monitoring Project, which is designed to provide teachers with the skills and tools needed to teach the scientific principles of biodiversity monitoring using their school grounds, parkland, or other natural areas as a living ecosystem laboratory. Students, teachers, and community partners experience their local ecosystem firsthand, and become involved in projects that allow them to understand and relate their local experiences to the global environment. Advanced opportunities allow teachers to learn from Smithsonian scientists, and adopt new and innovative ways to make science come alive with students. Through a facilitated planning process, Smithsonian staff work with teachers and administrators to meet school curriculum priorities, focusing on inquiry-based learning, and establishing a dedicated space to serve as a living laboratory for student learning. Partnerships are now in place with approximately 30 schools and school districts in Virginia, Colorado, Maryland, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.
In addition to coordinating priorities in science education and training, Ms. Buff oversees Education Office staff to manage the Zoo's research internship program, as well as local outreach activities, including the two-day Autumn Conservation Festival, which opens the CRC gates to the community, and features Zoo science programs through hands-on exhibits and behind-the-scenes tours. In 2001, the CRC Education Office initiated an advanced two-month teacher training fellowship (modeled after the research internship program), and targets both national and international educators. Jennifer continues to pursue her particular interests in capacity-building, creating a climate in schools where authentic student inquiry activities in nature are a part of the school culture for teaching and learning. She facilitates planning workshops and retreats, both in the U.S. and with partners internationally. A recent South African partnership supports capacity-building among teachers in historically disadvantaged communities, through both basic and advanced training, and resource development.
Ms. Buff received a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the School of Arts and Sciences at the California State University in Sacramento. She has a long history of program development and management, coming to the Washington, D.C., area in 1988 to serve as program coordinator for the Senior Citizens Counseling & Delivery Service in Washington's Ward 8 (Anacostia). She supervised a regional senior service program office and staff, including senior literacy programs, environmental education activities, volunteer opportunities, transportation services, health awareness programs, and recreation.
Wildt, D. E., Ellis, S., Janssen, D. & Buff, J. 2002. Toward more effective reproductive science in conservation. In: Reproductive Sciences and Integrated Conservation (Ed. by W. V. Holt, A. Pickard, J. Rodger & D. E. Wildt) Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Roth, T. L., Weiss, R. B., Buff, J. L., Bush, L. M., Wildt, D. E. & Bush, M. 1998. Heterologous in vitro fertilization and sperm capacitation in an endangered African antelope, the scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah). Biology of Reproduction 58, 475-482.
National Zoological Park
Conservation and Research Center
1500 Remount Road
Front Royal, VA 22630