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Rock Creek Research Labs

SCBI's extensive programs in conservation and science are located both at the facilities in Front Royal, Virginia, as well as facilities located at the National Zoo in Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.

The facilities at the National Zoo in Rock Creek Park include:

SCBI Rock Creek

SCBI Rock Creek(DCB, formerly Department of Conservation Biolog) is a branch of SCBI. It is off-exhibit and houses labs and offices for scientists based at the Zoo and working there and around the world.

Nutrition Laboratory

The National Zoo's Nutrition Laboratory, part of SCBI Rock Creek, was the first of its kind in a U.S. zoo. The Nutrition Lab focuses on comparative nutrition and nutritional ecology and has conducted extensive research into lactation strategies for a wide variety of animals. It also is involved in long-term projects on nutrition and reproduction.

Genetics Laboratory

The Genetics Laboratory uses molecular genetic methods to support studies in systematics, population genetics, and behavioral ecology. Much of our research is directly applicable to concerns of conservation biology and relevant to endangered species and biodiversity issues. The Genetics Laboratory is equipped with tools for these research questions.

Amazonia Science Gallery

The Amazonia Science Gallery, located adjacent to the Amazonia Habitat Exhibit, is open to the public to offer a glimpse into the scientific research Zoo and other Smithsonian staff conduct in the lab and in the field. It features several working laboratories that allow visitors to see and informally interact with scientists as they go about their research and studies.

The Gallery’s GIS (Geographic Information System) lab is a collaborative research venture to use the tools of GIS in creating an interactive, web-based resource for Amazon conservation. The program endeavors to display various maps of the Amazon basin with overlapping layers of conservation activity (protected areas, indigenous areas, etc.) and selected vectors and effects of development (mining, road development, fire data, etc.).

The Gallery’s Molecular Genetics Lab is a satellite lab of the main Molecular Genetics Laboratory, a research group within the Department of Systematic Biology at the National Museum of Natural History. The lab was founded in 1991 as part of the National Zoological Park, but recently was moved administratively under the Natural History Museum. Eventually, the laboratory will move from the National Zoo to the Natural History Building on the mall, and join with other researchers using molecular methods for studies of evolution and conservation.

The Gallery also has a satellite lab for the Department’s Nutrition Lab. Here visitors can view the equipment needed for scientists to prepare nutritional samples for analyses.

At the Gallery’s Biodiversity Laboratory visitors are introduced to the tremendous diversity of life by way of the microscopic examination of preserved and living specimens. The water chemistry and integrated pest management stations in the lab allow staff and visitors to monitor the environmental conditions necessary to maintain the rainforest and river system next door in the Amazonia habitat exhibit.

Department of Reproductive Sciences

At the Zoo in northwest Washington, D.C., are state-of-the-art reproductive sciences facility and genome resource bank. Also at the Zoo are facilities for conducting research on animals in the collection and coordinating conservation programs.

Migratory Bird Center

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) is located off-exhibit on the Zoo grounds and is a group of scientists, educators, and conservation biologists that use a combination of research, education, training, and policy development to foster greater understanding, appreciation, and protection of the grand phenomenon of bird migration.

Working internationally, projects focus on clarifying the causes for declines in migratory bird populations before the situation becomes desperate and develop strategies to protect the habitats on which these birds depend.