Conservation Biology at the National Zoo
A Science Plan: 2006–2016
The following five goals are essential to achieving our mission
Goal 1: Research and Discovery
Discover new ways to address significant theoretical or applied problems of importance to the survival or recovery of species and their habitats.
- Study the fundamental biology of species in zoos and in the wild.
- Discover and describe biodiversity and understand the evolutionary and ecological factors, including human impacts that affect diversity.
- Study the genetic, demographic, and fitness consequences of species decline and scarcity to better understand the forces that affect the probability of species survival.
- Examine how species distributions, animal behavior, nutrient requirements, habitat fragmentation, wildlife diseases, human encroachment, environmental contaminants, and invasions of exotic species affect species survival and ecosystem function.
- Studying emerging infectious diseases shared by humans and wildlife (e.g., West Nile Virus, Avian Influenza, Ebola)
- Initiating research focused on declining amphibians and other taxa in crisis
- Creating an early-warning system for emerging threats to biodiversity
- Becoming part of the National Science Foundation’s National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)
Goal 2: Develop Conservation Science-based Solutions
Develop science-based solutions to mitigate the loss of biodiversity, aid in the survival or recovery of species and their habitats, and ensure the health and well-being of animals in zoos and/or their counterparts in the wild.
- Identify and prioritize species and landscapes that would benefit from integrated, science-based conservation strategies.
- Develop concepts, theories, tools, and models that can be broadly applied to mitigating the adverse impacts of human-induced change on species survival.
- Enhance the scientific technology for monitoring, recovering, and managing species and the habitats they require for survival.
Developing Science Tools
- Biodiversity inventory and monitoring tools
- GIS and remote-sensing, including real-time monitoring technologies
- Cryopreservation of biological materials for managing and conserving rare species
- Diagnostic methods for animal health and clinical pathology
- Nutritional analysis techniques
- Epidemiologic modeling and biostatistics
- Genomics and molecular biology technologies
Goal 3: Create Zoo Linkages
Undertake basic and applied research on captive and wild populations, highlight species maintained or exhibited by the National Zoo, and exhibit species on which research is conducted.
- Conduct collections-based research to better understand the fundamental biology of species, with an emphasis on improving the genetic diversity, reproduction, health, and well-being of target species in zoos and in the wild.
- Integrate conservation and science more to benefit animal health and well-being, and to promote caring and greater public awareness of animals, their habitats, and the need for conservation action.
Goal 4: Train the Current and Next Generation
Build global conservation capacity through undergraduate, graduate, and professional education that emphasizes science-based approaches to conservation and decision-making.
- Develop a world-class Center for Conservation Education that will serve as a national and international hub for the National Zoo’s professional and public education programs, and act as the core of a network of similar centers already developed in foreign countries.
- Co-develop and deliver courses nationally and internationally with scientists from across the Smithsonian and with partners at universities, other zoological institutions, and non-governmental organizations.
- Design and provide professional growth and training courses for the National Zoo’s curatorial, education and keeper staff to improve their knowledge and capacity in conservation biology.
Goal 5: Educate and Inspire the Public
Provide a scientific basis for public education and outreach in conservation.
- Be a leading national provider of objective, science-based information and educational materials on the conservation of species and their habitats to the conservation community, policymakers, federal agencies, zoos, universities, K-12 schools, the media, and the public, with an emphasis on reaching underrepresented audiences.
- Serve on National Zoo Exhibits and Education teams to develop and implement inspiring and dynamic science-based zoo experiences that foster caring and greater public awareness of animals, their habitats, and the need for conservation action.