Conservation Biology at the National Zoo

The National Zoo conducts research to aid the survival or recovery of species and their habitats, and to ensure the health and well-being of animals in captivity and in the wild.

Excellence in Conservation Biology

Conservation biology is a young science that uses interdisciplinary approaches to address challenges in maintaining biological diversity. By definition, conservation biology is value-driven, based on the premise that the conservation of species diversity, ecological systems, and evolutionary processes are important and benefit current and future human societies. And, by its very nature, conservation biology must be adaptable because in our changing world threats to biodiversity will continue in new and uncharted ways.

Our scientists helped found the field of conservation biology, and continue as leaders today, with global perspectives, diverse expertise, and long-term experience in conducting inter-disciplinary zoo- and field-related research. We are leaders in the study, management, protection, and restoration of threatened species, ecological communities, and ecosystems. Professional training in conservation biology and public education inspires others to care for the world’s biological diversity and greatly amplifies the influence of Smithsonian Conservation Biology.

Smithsonian conservation biologists work in Front Royal, Virginia at the Zoo’s Conservation and Research Center (CRC), in Washington D.C., and at field sites around the world. Partnership with biodiversity and conservation scientists, social scientists, and educators from across the Smithsonian, international agencies and conservation organizations enhances our success.

Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability

CCES conserves biodiversity by training undergraduates, conservation professionals and practitioners worldwide; monitoring and assessing biodiversity; and conducting  research to develop models for environmentally-responsible and sustainable resource management. We aim to recruit and educate the next generation of conservation professionals, provide business and industry with science-based solutions for minimizing their impact on wildlife, and develop innovative and strategic conservation partnerships that result in science-based conservation solutions. More

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

blackburnian warbler

SMBC carries out basic and applied research, solutions-driven analysis, professional training, and educational and outreach activities to increase understanding, appreciation, and protection of the phenomenon of bird migration. Founded with Congressional support in 1991 at a time of increased awareness of the conservation issues facing North American migratory songbirds, SMBC was incorporated into the National Zoo in 1997. More

Conservation Ecology Center

CEC is committed to sustaining animals and plants in the wild by supporting conservation scientists who focus their attention on research that is not based on zoo collection animals. CEC works at the cutting edge of conservation science. We focus on the biology of extinction, overabundant species, nutritional ecology, endangered landscapes, and processes to evaluate the effectiveness of conservation measures. This work includes species from marine turtles to tigers, and ecosystems from Asian tall grass to oak forests at CRC, where our scientists develop land-use plans as models of sustainability for our own communities.

Center for Species Survival

CSS manages mammal and bird species in the collection at CRC and conducts research in reproductive physiology, endocrinology, cryobiology, embryo biology, animal behavior, wildlife toxicology, and assisted reproduction. The mission of the CSS is leadership in the study, propagation, and research-oriented management of rare wildlife species to create knowledge that we can use to ensure self-sustaining populations in zoos and nature. 

Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics

CCEG specializes in genetic management of wild and captive populations, non-invasive DNA, ancient DNA, systematics, disease diagnosis, genetic services to the zoo community, and application of genetics to animal behavior and ecology. It applies genetic theory and methods in creative ways to learn about the evolutionary and life histories of animals, to understand the importance of genetic variation to their survival, and to identify the methods needed to sustain them in captivity and the wild.


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