Parking passes for Conservation Discovery Day are sold out. This page will be updated if any parking passes become available.
Calling all high school and college students: Consider a career in science, wildlife biology, animal care and sustainability! Conservation Discovery Day at the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, includes hands-on activities, research demonstrations and career panel discussions with conservation biologists, field ecologists, research scientists, veterinarians and animal keepers.
It’s the one day of the year this facility is open to the public, so don’t miss your chance to learn how you can join the conservation ranks and make a difference for wildlife and habitats worldwide!
Please note: SCBI is a large and hilly campus. Appropriate attire for outdoor activities and comfortable walking shoes are highly recommended. This event will be held rain or shine.
Big Killers Come in Small Packages
Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) is a leading cause of death in young Asian elephants. The EEHV Lab at the Smithsonian's National Zoo runs EEHV diagnostics for U.S. zoos and helps develop EEHV testing labs in other countries.
- Learn about molecular diagnostics of EEHV and check out some elephant poop, teeth and tails
- Hear how EEHV affects elephant conservation efforts
- "Diagnose" EEHV in your own elephant
Experience one of the main methods that Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center scientists use to study birds: bird banding!
- Learn first-hand how scientists attach bands and what information banding provides
- Observe wild birds up close
- Discover how humans influence ecosystems in ways that help and hurt bird populations
Caught on Camera: Wildlife Monitoring Booth
Discover how SCBI researchers use camera traps to monitor wildlife around the world and to address important conservation-related questions.
- Learn about the exciting camera-trapping projects SCBI scientists are conducting around the world
- Receive tips and hints for identifying species in camera trap images
- Participate in eMammal photo identification through Zooniverse, an online resource where anyone can be a researcher
SCBI scientists study cheetahs living in managed collections in human care to better understand cheetah biology.
- Find out how much scientists can learn from cheetah poop! They use it to study all types of biology, including reproductive hormones, pregnancy and gut health.
- Cheetah matchmaking — discover what goes into creating the perfect cheetah breeding pair.
The Doctor Is In: Veterinarians and Conservation Health
Meet the veterinary staff who are committed to saving species at SCBI and beyond!
- Learn how veterinarians at SCBI care for more than 20 different species.
- Go behind the scenes at the vet hospital to see where and how SCBI veterinarians and vet technicians help animals.
Dynamite DNA: What Animals' Genomes Tell Us
For more than 20 years, the Smithsonian’s Center for Conservation Genomics has helped elusive and endangered species like tigers, Asian and African elephants, San Joaquin kit foxes and maned wolves by studying their genomes.
- Learn how an animal’s genomes can help scientists identify appropriate conservation methods, while providing data on an animal's sex, mating patterns and relationships.
- Get the chance to “perform” a DNA extraction and test.
- Participate in interactive demos and discussions with scientists.
Please note: This is a timed tour with limited space. Registration at the information desk on the day of the event is required. Space is limited and is first come, first served.
Freezing for the Future: Smithsonian Frozen Collections
Scientists working with the Smithsonian's cryo-collections have the COOLest job!
- Find out what cryopreservation is and how it's saving species.
- Participate in games and interact with scientists to learn what and why these scientists freeze and how they reanimate living cells.
GIS Lab: Wildlife Tracking & Forest Mapping
SCBI researchers and scientists use geographic information systems (GIS) mapping to monitor animal movement and quantitatively map habitat using satellite technology.
- Try your hand at a computer-based exercise of forest mapping using satellite images.
- Borrow one of the lab’s GPS devices to go on a scavenger hunt in the field.
Global Canid Conservation
SCBI scientists and researchers use multidisciplinary approach ranging from reproductive technologies to field conservation to solve conservation issues of threatened and endangered canids around the world.
- Discover the world of canids. How many are wild canids? Where are they? Why are maned wolves so unique?
- Learn how to grow eggs in the lab and how an animal's gut microbial community can impact overall health.
- Explore SCBI's tracking techniques for dholes in Thailand.
Brown kiwi, flightless nocturnal birds, are native to New Zealand and are endangered due to nonnative predators introduced by humans. In 1975, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo became the first organization to hatch a brown kiwi outside of New Zealand. SCBI has hatched six kiwi eggs since 2012.
- See life-size models of kiwi adults and chicks, as well as a kiwi skeleton with an egg.
- Watch videos of various kiwi research, kiwi in the wild and kiwi hatching.
Life in the Forest
Did you know that the Smithsonian leads a global forest monitoring network, is the leader in camera-trap monitoring wildlife and is part of the National Ecological Observatory Network? Learn how SCBI and NEON scientists measure trees, study animals and assess the health of forests and freshwater ecosystems in Virginia and around the world.
- Visit SCBI's forest plot to learn about forest research here and around the world.
- See how wildlife cameras work.
- Learn how NEON measures stream biodiversity.
Please Note: This is a timed tour with limited space. Registration at the information desk on the day of the event will be required. Space is limited and is first come, first served. This tour is only accessible by shuttle and involves walking through a forest with uneven terrain in thick vegetation. Closed-toed shoes are required for this tour; tennis shoes or hiking shoes are recommended.
One Health: Humans and Wildlife
The Global Health Program employs wildlife veterinarians, pathologists, biologists, researchers and technicians to address wildlife health concerns, investigate diseases that can infect both humans and animals, and conduct international training programs. GHP has projects around the world and is dedicated to global wildlife health and conservation.
- Field Scientist #Selfie Booth: Dress as a field scientist and snap a selfie! Pose with an array of props, including headlamps, traps, protective equipment and gear, nets and (pretend) bat patients.
- Tools of the Trade: See some of the equipment used by wildlife and research veterinarians, including field anesthesia, darting equipment, diagnostics and more. Meet real field veterinarians and learn about their international projects and what it takes to be a wildlife veterinarian.
- Suit Up! PPE Race: When working with infectious organisms, it pays to keep yourself safe! See the gear that scientists in the field use to protect themselves from pathogens like bacteria and viruses. Race your friends to see who can suit up the quickest!
- What's Your Diagnosis? Learn about some of the most pressing infectious diseases affecting wildlife species around the globe. Answer questions correctly to earn some prizes!
Remount History: Photos and Artifacts
How did Remount Road get its name? Where is the recognized birthplace of America's K-9 Corps? Discover the inspirational and unique 100-year history of the land that is now home to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
- Hear fascinating stories about this Front Royal property from the early 1900s through the Cold War.
- View rare period photographs and historical artifacts.
Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation: Help Save the Planet!
The Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation offers interdisciplinary programs in conservation biology for undergraduate and graduate students and professionals.
- Learn how SMSC students play an active role in sustaining biodiversity and promoting conservation.
- Learn about and participate in radio telemetry practice, insect specimen prep, native bee habitat construction and a GPS/orienteering scavenger hunt.
Wildlife Endocrinology: Unlocking Animal Hormones
The Endocrinology Research Laboratory at SCBI is the oldest and largest wildlife endocrinology lab in the world.
- Learn about endocrinology and how it can be a useful tool in wildlife conservation.
- Discover how scientists study hormones of different species to help evaluate the health and breeding window of an animal.
TED-style talks on some of SCBI's local and global research, 15-20 minutes each:
9:45 a.m. | The Whistling Hunters
Learn about SCBI’s effort to study and save endangered dholes (also known as Asian wild dogs), one of the least known canids on Earth.
10:15 a.m. | Investigating Wildlife Disease: An Old Parasite Newly Found in Giant Pandas
A genetically unique blood parasite was found in captive giant pandas for the first time. Learn about its implications and the work of the Global Health Program from a wildlife veterinarian.
10:45 a.m. | Global Change Impacts on the Forests of Virginia's Blue Ridge Ecoregion
Forests around the world are being altered by climate change and other human influences. What is happening in our local forests?
1 p.m. | Conservation on the Fly: The Race to Save Virginia's Grassland Birds
Virginia Working Landscapes is a Smithsonian-led initiative that works with private landowners to better understand how land use is impacting local wildlife. Hear the plight of Virginia’s grassland birds and how researchers and landowners are working together to save them.
1:30 p.m. | Recent Reproductive Success of the Scimitar-horned Oryx
One little calf represents a big step forward for assisted reproduction for this critically endangered species. Hear this success story from one of SCBI's scientists and what this means for reintroduction efforts in Chad.
2 p.m. | Spring and Fall Migration through the Gulf of Mexico Region
Habitats along the U.S. coast of the Gulf of Mexico provide critical resources for North America’s migratory birds. Learn how SCBI is using the national weather radar network to study bird migration through this region, and hear some exciting new results!
Presentations on species-specific conservation initiatives, 45 minutes each:
10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. | Kiwi Conservation
All kiwi species are protected and listed as either threatened or endangered. This talk will take you through the fascinating natural history of kiwi, their place in Maori culture and tradition, their care and management at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, and the unique adaptations that make them unlike any other bird.
11 a.m. and 1 p.m. | Black-footed Ferret Matchmaker*
Hear the astounding history of the black-footed ferret, North America’s only native ferret species. Learn about current research and reintroduction efforts. Participate in a simulated breeding model by examining biological samples and determining the best ferret mate pairings to maintain genetic diversity.
*Limited space is available for Black-footed Ferret Matchmaker. Register for these presentations at the event's information tent. Registration is first come, first served.
You ask, they answer! Hear about a typical day’s work from SCBI staff. Learn about their backgrounds and gain career advice.
10 a.m. | Careers in Conservation
Panelists include a conservation biologist, animal programs staff and field researchers.
11:15 a.m. | Ins and Outs of Internships
Intern supervisors, staff members and current interns offer tips and advice for those hoping to gain experience in the field of conservation.
1 p.m. | Tech and Conservation
From GIS mapping and satellite tracking to drones and heart monitors, advances in technology have opened up new, exciting career paths for conservationists!
2:15 p.m. | Careers in Conservation
Panelists include a wildlife veterinarian, animal keeper, conservation educator and field project manager.
The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute plays a leading role in the Smithsonian’s global efforts to save wildlife species from extinction and train future generations of conservationists. SCBI spearheads research programs at its headquarters in Front Royal, Virginia, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide.
SCBI scientists tackle some of today’s most complex conservation challenges by applying and sharing what they learn about animal behavior and reproduction, ecology, genetics, migration and conservation sustainability.SCBI scientists study and breed more than 20 species at their headquarters, including those that were once extinct in the wild, like black-footed ferrets and scimitar-horned oryx.
Its major research initiatives are organized into six science centers: Conservation Ecology, Conservation and Sustainability, Conservation Genomics, Migratory Birds, and Species Survival. Other initiatives include the Global Tiger Initiative, Virginia Working Landscapes, and the Global Health Program. Their work doesn’t stop at the gates of SCBI. Approximately 250 SCBI scientists and students collaborate with colleagues in more than 25 countries.
Since its founding in 1974, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, has celebrated many milestones, from endangered species births, to reintroductions to the wild, to revolutionary scientific studies. During the 1970s, SCBI welcomed the first of many mammal and bird births at its facility, including red pandas, clouded leopards, onagers, Guam rails, white-naped cranes and Micronesian kingfishers.
In the mid-1980s SCBI scientists developed the basis for breeding animals in human care to preserve as much genetic diversity as possible. In 1991 the first black-footed ferret kits born at SCBI were returned to the wild. The black-footed ferret reintroduction program continues today, as do many other reintroduction efforts.
In 1995, Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute scientists were the first to discover the lethal elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus (EEHV) which affects both wild and zoo elephants. And in 1999, scientists helped discover the chytrid fungus, a lethal fungus responsible for massive global amphibian declines.
Since 2006, SCBI scientists have cryopreserved eggs and sperm from coral species around the world, and helped establish the first genome repository for Great Barrier Reef coral in 2011. In 2010, the Zoo became the first zoo or aquarium to successfully grow two species of anemones.
On land, SCBI launched Virginia Working Landscapes to preserve native biodiversity and encourage the sustainable use of working landscapes in 2009. The following year, SCBI became one of the first land-based participants in the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in the U.S., collecting data on various environmental factors.
SCBI researchers have worked with many partners to save species and their habitats. SCBI particularly has focused on training the next generation of conservationists. In 2008, the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation was established at SCBI headquarters in Front Royal, Virginia, enabling undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students to study with SCBI scientists and George Mason University professors.
The Cornell-Smithsonian Joint Graduate Training Program, which has been accepting applications since 2011, allows students to benefit from the dual mentorship of a Cornell faculty member and an SCBI scientist. The program’s very first student produced the first domestic puppies from in vitro fertilization in 2015, solving some of the mystery of canid reproduction.
From the East (Washington, D.C., area)
- Take I-66 to the Linden/Route 55 exit (Exit 13)
- Turn left at the bottom of the exit ramp
- Turn right at the first stop light onto VA-55 West and go about five miles
- Turn left at the traffic light onto US-522 South/Remount Road
- The main gate to SCBI Front Royal will be on your left in about two miles
- Turn left into SCBI Front Royal
From the West (Winchester/Strasburg, Virginia)
- Take I-81 to I-66
- Take the Front Royal/US-522 exit (Exit 6)
- Turn right at the end of the ramp and follow US-522 South/Remount Road through Front Royal and for about two miles south of town
- Turn left into SCBI Front Royal
- Hawthorne Ice Cream and Novelties
- Hazard Mill Kitchen
- Roaming Bistro
- Shaffers BBQ
Parking passes for Conservation Discovery Day are sold out. This page will be updated if any parking passes become available.
Attendees 15 years and younger must be accompanied by an adult.
Car passes: $30
- $50 for a small bus or van
- $100 for school buses or chartered buses
Bus parking is limited, and passes will be available on a first come, first served basis.