Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



David E. Wildt, Ph.D, Senior Scientist and Head, Center for Species Survival
Reproductive Sciences

David WildtEducation

Illinois State University, B.S., Animal Science, 1972

Michigan State University, M.S., Animal Husbandry, 1973

Michigan State University, Ph.D., Physiology and Animal Husbandry, 1975

Baylor College of Medicine, Post-Doctoral Fellowship,
Reproductive Physiology and Endocrinology, 1975-1976

Professional History and Interests

David Wildt has carried out multidisciplinary research for 30 years while at Michigan State University, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas A&M University, the National Institutes of Health and now the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and its Conservation and Research Center. He leads a group of scientists, fellows, students, technicians and volunteers who study the reproductive biology of animals, from fish to elephants.

Basic, applied and interdisciplinary research is devoted to creating scholarly knowledge that leads to better management and conservation of small populations especially endangered species. Efforts are connected to other scientific disciplines, particularly genetics, veterinary medicine, behavior, nutrition, ecology and small population biology.

This cross-disciplinary integration through partnerships is unique and fundamental to Wildt’s philosophy. Historic examples include health, genetic and reproductive fitness relationships in the cheetah and Florida panther as well as incorporating assisted breeding into the reintroduction management plan of the black-footed ferret to the American West.

The most recent illustration is his leadership of integrated studies of giant pandas in China to resolve ex situ breeding problems. This program involved five Chinese breeding facilities, four North American zoos and more than 50 Chinese and 15 North American scientists representing seven disciplines. Among the products have been new knowledge, cross-cultural trust/partnerships and training opportunities that are benefiting giant panda conservation ex situ and in situ.

Departmental projects often are linked to Wildt’s relationships within the international conservation and zoo communities through the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) of the IUCN-World Conservation Union’s Species Survival Commission. As former Deputy Chairman of CBSG, Wildt has been involved worldwide in grassroots management, research and recovery programs for endangered species ranging from the small cats of Latin America to the Simian wolves of Ethiopia to the tigers of Sumatra.

In addition to science administration, Wildt’s current professional interests include (1) promoting research for species for which basic biological information does not exist, (2) securing private sector partnerships to fund conservation research, especially in the life sciences and (3) linking science "stories" and public education including in the developing world.

He currently serves as chairman of the Wildlife Advisory Board of the Morris Animal Foundation. Wildt has more than 220 publications in the peer-reviewed literature and 30 book chapters spanning more than 50 vertebrate species.

Five Selected Publications

Wildt, D.E., W.F. Rall, J.K. Critser, S.L. Monfort and U.S. Seal. 1997. Genome resource banks: ‘Living collections’ for biodiversity conservation. BioScience 47:689-698.

Wildt, D.E. and C. Wemmer. 1999. Sex and wildlife: The role of reproductive biology in conservation. Biodiv. Conserv. 8:965-976.

Wildt, D.E., S. Ellis and J.G. Howard. 2001. Linkage of reproductive sciences: from ‘quick fix’ to ‘integrated’ conservation. In: Advances in Reproduction in Dogs, Cats and Exotic Carnivores, P.W. Concannon, G.C.W. England, W. Farstad, C. Linde-Forsberg, J.P. Verstegen and C. Doberska, eds., Journals of Reproduction and Fertility, Ltd., Colchester, pp. 295-307.

Wildt, D.E., J.L. Brown and J.G. Howard. 2001. Role of reproductive sciences in carnivore conservation. In: Carnivore Conservation, J.L. Gittleman, S.M. Funk, D.W. Macdonald and R.K. Wayne, eds., Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 359-371.

Wildt, D.E., S. Ellis, D. Janssen and J. Buff. 2003. Toward more effective reproductive science in conservation. In: Reproductive Sciences and Integrated Conservation, W.V. Holt, A. Pickard, J.C. Rodger and D.E. Wildt, eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 2-20.


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Conservation & Research Center
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