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SCBI Evening Lecture Series

Free and Open to the Public

Journey with Smithsonian scientists and other conservation professionals as they travel the globe to study and protect species and ecosystems.

Time: Every Wednesday in April and October | 7 p.m.

Location: Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. Directions below. Seating is limited, so arrive early.

Spring Lectures

April 1 | "Crane Conservation: Current Status, Blood Basics and Gas Exchange Monitoring," speaker: Julia Jones, licensed veterinary technician, Department of Conservation Medicine, SCBI

There are 15 species of cranes on Earth, and SCBI is home to four of them, all four of which are listed as vulnerable or endangered. Our researchers are taking a closer look at the exchange of gases from the lungs to the blood stream of cranes, in controlled environments, to determine what normal blood gas parameters are for healthy individual cranes. Using a handheld device to obtain this data, we are hoping to take this technology into the field to compare our baseline blood gas data to that of wild cranes. We are just at the beginning stages of this cutting-edge research.

April 8 | "Rewilding of degraded farmlands in dryland ecosystems: opportunity knocks,” speaker: Scott Butterfield, Ph.D., lead scientist for diversifying agriculture program at The Nature Conservancy, California

Join us as we explore the southern Central Valley, California — a case study of the need and opportunity for rewilding degraded landscape. Once a vast system of wetlands, grasslands and shrublands, over the last century the San Joaquin Valley has been transformed into one of the most productive and important agricultural regions in the world. Boasting a $45 billion ag economy, this production has come at a cost. Less than 5% of historical habitat remains, offering little habitat to more than a dozen threatened and endangered plant and animal species; and groundwater aquifers are in a critical state of overdraft. In response to plummeting groundwater levels, in 2014, California passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. As a result, more than 200,000 acres of farmland may be permanently retired in the San Joaquin Valley. A coalition led by The Nature Conservancy has evaluated the potential to strategically direct farmland retirement, rewild large areas of natural lands, recover natural communities, achieve the region’s groundwater sustainability goals, and minimize negative social/economic impacts to communities in the San Joaquin Valley. This creates an opportunity for one of the largest rewilding efforts in modern history, and to recover imperiled species in the Valley.

April 15 | "From Head to Tail: A Red Wolf Sperm Story," speaker: Jennifer Nagashima, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow, Center for Species Survival, SCBI

The red wolf is a critically endangered American canid with fewer than 300 individuals remaining on Earth. With such a low number of red wolves left, it is vital to the survival of the species to maintain genetic variability in the population. To achieve this, researchers at SCBI have been working on several projects utilizing cryopreserved red wolf sperm. These innovative breeding techniques increase chances that every valuable wolf will be represented in the next generation. Projects include working on the first steps of developing in vitro fertilization in red wolves, exploring potential protein "biomarkers" that improve sperm ability to withstand freezing, and incubating wolf sperm with fluids from domestic dog fallopian tubes (collected as leftovers from routine spays). SCBI is working with partners across the U.S. to support the conservation of this critically endangered American canid.

April 22 | "Saving Rhino! Understanding the Influence of Rhino Diet on Health and Reproduction," speaker: Budhan Pukazhenthi, Ph.D., research physiologist, Center for Species Survival, SCBI

Rhino populations continue to decline precipitously throughout their native range. SCBI scientist are working on research aimed to help maintain healthy rhino populations at zoos, as insurance to prevent species extinction. This can be difficult, as rhinos have unique dietary requirements which, when not optimal, can affect both health and reproductive success. Research physiologist Budhan Pukazhenthi will share exciting new research revealing evidence linking diet, gut microbial diversity, health, and reproduction in rhinos, and discusses steps animal managers are taking to maintain healthy rhino populations.

April 29 | "Furballs of Fury: Veterinary Care of the Healthy Baby Exotic Cat," speaker: Dr. Kelly Helmick, veterinarian, Department of Conservation Medicine, SCBI

Just like domestic kittens, exotic kittens need regular vaccinations and veterinary check-ups to keep them healthy as they grow. Zoo veterinarians must overcome special challenges to care for these often savage kittens — all under the watchful eye of their ferocious moms. Learn how SCBI staff provide safe and tender care for these furballs of fury.

Important Details:

The SMSC Dining Hall will be open for dinner at 5 p.m. on lecture dates. Lecture guests will be offered a special price of $11 per person (includes tax). If you plan to attend dinner (all-you-can-eat), please RSVP to Edward.Katona@sodexo.com. Outside food is not permitted in the dining hall.


Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation Dining Hall
1500 Remount Road
Front Royal, Virginia 22630

Please note: Pets are not allowed on SCBI property.


Directions from the east:

Take I-66 west to the Linden/Front Royal exit #13
At end of ramp, turn left, under freeway to stoplight at Route 55
Turn right (west) on Route 55 and travel five miles into Front Royal
Turn left at signal, Route 522/Remount Road
Drive approximately 2 miles and take a left into Gate 2 and follow event parking signs
Please pause by the guard house before proceeding to the dining hall

Directions from Rappahannock:

From US 211 take 522 north ~ 12 miles
Turn right into Gate 2 and follow event parking signs
Please pause by the guard house before proceeding to the dining hall