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Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute to Host Annual Autumn Conservation Festival and Free Lecture Series

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., is opening its doors—usually closed to the public—for special opportunities in October. The month kicks off with the Autumn Conservation Festival Saturday, Oct. 4, and Sunday, Oct. 5. Visitors to SCBI can see endangered species and meet the world-class scientists who study them and help their populations. Scientists will also share stories about their research all over the world as part of a free lecture series at SCBI throughout October.

Autumn Conservation Festival

The all-ages Autumn Conservation Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 4 and Oct. 5. Visitors are encouraged to come early as last entry is at 2 p.m. each day. Car passes are $30 and are available for purchase in advance on the Zoo's website. Day-of, cash-only parking passes will be for sale at the SCBI gate. (There is an additional charge for cars with more than six passengers; $5 will be added for each person over the 6 passenger limit.) Parking passes are complimentary for members of Friends of the National Zoo at the Patron level or higher or if they have added the SCBI Club to the Premier+, Premier, or Basic membership levels.

The festival will offer a behind-the-scenes look at rare and endangered animals, including the red panda cubs born this spring and summer. Visitors can tour a portion of SCBI's bird collection as well as see black-footed ferrets. (Note: Due to animal behavior and/or research some animals may not be visible at all times.) Visitors will also have an opportunity to interact with animal keepers and world-renown scientists.

Scientists—ranging from ecologists to veterinarians—will have educational displays, activities and interactive games setup around the campus. Guests can enjoy live music performances, and food and merchandise will be available for purchase. The Autumn Conservation Festival is open to all ages and will be held rain or shine. Visitors are encouraged to dress comfortably. Although limited shuttle service is available, visitors should be prepared to walk and are advised to wear comfortable footwear.

Free Lecture Series at SCBI

In addition to the festival, SCBI has a free month-long lecture series open to the public. Lectures will take place every Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. from Oct. 1 to Oct. 29, at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation. Seating is limited, so guests are encouraged to arrive early. Before each lecture, the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation dining hall will be open from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. for dinner. Parking for the lecture series is free. For further details, visit the Zoo's website.

Oct. 1

Global Canid Conservation: Multidisciplinary Approach to Conserve Rare and Endangered Canids

Visitors can learn about the diverse canid (dog-like) family, with at least one species on every continent except Antarctica. Due to habitat loss, depletion of prey species and persecution, extinction threatens six of 36 wild canid species and many others are in decline. SCBI's research biologist Dr. Nucharin Songsasen will discuss the fascinating nature of canids and share her experiences studying and conserving wild canids in zoos and in their natural habitats.

Oct. 8

A Conservation Ethic for China: Finding a Place for Animals in a Developing World

Pan Wenshi, one of the founding fathers of the modern conservation movement in China, started his work on giant pandas with George Schaller and then established his own 17-year study of giant pandas in the 1980s. He will share how both the Chinese government and international organizations used outcomes of this study. He will discuss his years of conservation work in China, how local people and the government perceive conservation and how science can help humans and wildlife live in harmony.

Oct. 15

Unlocking the Mysteries of the Adorable Red Panda

The strikingly patterned and charismatic red panda is a carnivore, is the only species in the family Ailurus and is vulnerable to extinction. Only about 10,000 individuals remain in the Himalayas. Although the National Zoo and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute have been at the forefront of red panda breeding, management and research for three decades, there is still much to learn about the species. Dr. Copper Aitken-Palmer and Dr. Elizabeth Freeman will describe research they are conducting to advance the well-being of the species through health and reproductive initiatives.

Oct. 22

A Race Against Time: A Collaborative Effort to Save Frogs from Extinction

The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation project is a Smithsonian partnership focused on saving some of Panama's most endangered amphibians. Biologist Matt Evans has participated in the program for the past five years and will discuss his field excursion to the Darien Gap in Panama in search of Atelopus glyphus, one of the harlequin toads facing extinction in the region due to the spread of amphibian chytrid fungus, a pathogenic fungal disease decimating amphibian populations around the globe.

Oct. 29

Conserving the Public Interest: Virginia Working Landscapes and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

In the eastern United States, more than 90 percent of lands are privately held. In 2010, SCBI began the Virginia Working Landscapes program to address a grass-roots demand for access to best management practices for conservation of biodiversity and nature's benefits on the suburban, agricultural and forested mosaic of the region. Director of Virginia Working Landscapes, Tom Akre, will discuss how the project leverages the capacity of the Smithsonian with a regional network of federal and state partners, conservation nongovernmental organizations, private landowners and volunteer citizen scientists to promote sustainable use of Virginia's landscapes through ecosystem research, habitat monitoring and community engagement.

Directions to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

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.

(For lecture series only: Drive approximately two miles and take a left into Gate 2 and follow lecture parking signs.)

From Rappahannock:

From US 211 take 522 north for approximately 12 miles.

(For lecture series only: Turn right into Gate 2 and follow lecture parking signs.)