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Wednesdays in April and October | 7 p.m.

Journey with Smithsonian scientists and other conservation professionals as they travel the globe to study and protect species and ecosystems. Share in their adventures during these free science lectures, which are open to the public.

Seating is limited, so arrive early. Lectures take place at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, in the SMSC Dining Hall.

Upcoming Lectures

Oct. 2 | "Male elephants & female farmers; conflict to resolution," speaker: Dr. Kate Evans, Founder and Director of Elephants for Africa

In recent times the African savannah elephant has recolonized historical rangelands in Botswana due to ecological shifts. This range expansion has brought elephants into increasing contact with rural communities, many of whom have not had to deal with elephants for one or two generations. Elephants for Africa works with communities bordering the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park (home to a population of majority male elephants), partnering with farmers and schools to deliver educational programs to enable them to work towards human-elephant coexistence. The majority of the farmers EFA work with our women, many of whom are grandmothers supporting their extended family through the food they produce. EFA’s holistic approach of understanding the needs of both humans and male elephants in this unique landscape is building the foundations for long-term conservation solutions for Botswana and her elephants alongside the economic stability of rural communities.

Oct. 9 | "Continuing Diary of a Coral Midwife, Chapter 42: A 'Tail' of Two Montiporids,” speaker: Mike Henley, Ph.D. Candidate, SCBI Hawaii

Anthropogenic global warming is increasing ocean temperatures, causing sustained warming periods that stress corals in several ways, including their reproduction. Monitoring and reporting of gamete quality is a useful metric to track the responses of corals to local and global stressors that otherwise appear visually healthy. Recent observations in Kāneʻohe Bay, Hawaiʻi, suggest that while corals might look healthy, their sexual reproduction has been significantly impacted. Specifically, long-term monitoring of sperm motility for both Lobactis scutaria and Montipora capitata demonstrated approximately 50% loss of motility since 2013. Loss of motile energy, whereby motility crashed after 30 minutes (previous years demonstrate robust motility for greater than 2 hours), also suggests that no real reversal of these trends was observed in 2017, two years after the previous warming events; sublethal impacts to gamete development due to elevated temperatures might last for years after a warming event. However, some corals in the bay might be coping with this increased thermal stress. Initial spawning observations of the lesser-studied coral Montipora flabellata in Kāneʻohe Bay revealed very high sperm motility with good duration during the 2017 and 2018 spawning seasons, while the more common Montipora capitata maintained its observed downward trend of previous years.

Oct. 16 | "It's a Zoo Out There: Vet Care of the Wild and Endangered," speaker: Dr. Kristi Delaski, Veterinary Medicine Officer, SCBI Front Royal

From cheetah check-ups to zebra X-rays, veterinarians at SCBI see a wide variety of animals and wear many hats. We are primary care doctors for all the animals that live at SCBI, we oversee the transfer of animals to and from other institutions, we assist researchers with their projects, and we conduct our own clinical research. This presentation will discuss several recent cases that highlight what a zoo veterinarian does every day, and what it takes to care for our diverse collection. 

Oct. 23 | "Conservation on the Fly: How Landowners and Scientists are Working Together to Conserve Virginia's Grassland Birds," speaker: Amy Johnson, Ph.D., Program Director, Virginia Working Landscapes

Virginia is home to some of our nation’s most threatened bird species -- grassland birds. With more than 90% of our landscape under private ownership, the future of these bird communities relies almost entirely on decisions made by private landowners. Researchers and citizen scientists with SCBI’s Virginia Working Landscapes program have spent the last decade studying grassland bird populations in close collaboration with our region’s landowners. Join us as we highlight stories from the field, documenting species that breed and winter in Virginia’s grasslands. Hear updates on current research projects, gain inspiration from landowner successes and find out what you can do to help conserve birds on your own property.

Oct. 30 | "Building a Scientific Program with Global Partners to Save Giraffes from Extinction," speaker: Jared Stabach, Ph.D., Ecologist with the Conservation Ecology Center, SCBI Front Royal

One of the most charismatic species on earth, giraffe populations have dwindled rapidly over the past few decades. Now considered vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the total population of giraffes across Africa is estimated to be less than 100,000 individuals. The causes of these population declines are multi-fold, with habitat loss and fragmentation, competition with livestock, disease, and illegal poaching for bushmeat all considered contributing factors. To change this disturbing trend, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute hosted the first-ever Giraffe Conservation Science Symposium in 2018, inclusive of strategic partners Giraffe Conservation Foundation, San Diego Zoo Global, and Senckenberg World of Biodiversity. The goal of the symposium was to develop a unified scientific framework to guide giraffe conservation science activities across Africa and save the species from extinction. See a synopsis of recent scientific activities conducted by partners to conserve giraffes, including details of recent capture-related activities conducted in September 2019 to fit 28 reticulated giraffes with satellite tracking devices, the largest tracking study of its kind on the species to date.

Additional 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 $10 per person. 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-Mason School of Conservation Dining Hall
1500 Remount Road
Front Royal, Virginia 22630

After entering the SCBI gate, please pause by the guard house before proceeding to the dining hall.

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