Smithsonian Launches New Institute to Address Global Conservation Challenges

The Smithsonian has established a Conservation Biology Institute to serve as an umbrella for its global effort to conserve species and train future generations of conservationists. Headquartered in Front Royal, Virginia, the facility was previously known as the National Zoo’s Conservation and Research Center.

The SCBI will facilitate and promote research programs based at Front Royal, at the National Zoo in Washington and at field-research and training sites around the world. Its efforts will support one of the four main goals of the Smithsonian’s new strategic plan, which advances "understanding and sustaining a biodiverse planet."

"The new name will identify the Smithsonian’s conservation biology excellence more distinctly and place it purposefully and equally among the other areas of Smithsonian achievement," said Eva Pell, the Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for Science.

Conservation biology is a field of science based on the premise that the conservation of biological diversity is important and benefits current and future human societies. National Zoo scientists (among the pioneers in the field of conservation biology) have long been leaders in the study, management, protection and restoration of threatened species, ecological communities and ecosystems.

The Institute consists of six centers:
  • Conservation Ecology Center
  • Migratory Bird Center
  • Center for Species Survival
  • Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics
  • Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability
  • Center for Wildlife Health and Husbandry Sciences

As the benefits of conserving biodiversity become more commonly understood, the SCBI will be the vehicle by which Smithsonian scientists are recognized as leaders in developing ways to stem the loss of biodiversity and aid in the recovery of endangered species and habitats. The SCBI will be headed by Steven Monfort, who served as the National Zoo’s acting director for one year and as the Zoo’s associate director for conservation and science for four years. A well-known veterinarian and wildlife biologist focused on endangered wildlife, Monfort has led conservation efforts in Africa and Southeast Asia and has led efforts to upgrade the Front Royal facility as a center for conservation training. He has developed strategic partnerships with George Mason University, the World Bank and the National Science Foundation, as well as other international conservation organizations.