The Conservation and Research Center is a Directorate, or Program, of the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park. It is one of the world’s most extensive programs of conservation biology research. Our scientists work in the exhibits and behind-the-scenes at the Zoo, at our Conservation and Research Center (CRC) in Virginia, and in field sites around the world.

Scientists in the CRC Directorate, divided into two departments—Reproductive Sciences and Conservation Biology—are involved in eight of the ten major scientific disciplines represented at the National Zoo. more

Their research encompasses a broad array of subjects including ecology and biodiversity monitoring, reproduction and animal health, genetic diversity and systematics, and nutrition and geographic information systems.

Staff are involved in groundbreaking research pertaining to the conservation of endangered species and ecosystems locally, nationally, and around the world. The objective of our research programs is to develop long-term, collaborative conservation initiatives that utilize the diverse array of scientific, cultural, and political tools to understand and protect species and their ecosystems.

Scientific staff profiles

The mission of the Conservation and Research Center Program is the conservation of biodiversity through scientific research, professional training, and environmental education.

Our scientists work to achieve three primary goals:

  • Saving wildlife. Scientists use the most current technologies to contribute to the scientific basis for conservation and to global efforts to preserve many threatened and endangered species.
  • Saving habitat. Scientists use field ecology and geographical information systems (GIS), in addition to other disciplines and techniques, to understand the habitats that support endangered species. Long-term ecological studies, assessment and monitoring of biodiversity and training programs take place around the world in a variety of ecosystems and habitats.
  • Restoring species to the wild. Scientists seek to restore wildlife populations to their natural habitats. Their efforts have been successful for many species, including North America’s own black-footed ferret, as well as several other exotic species.

Our Conservation and Research Center Program scientists are also dedicated to promoting international training in conservation leadership. More than 2,700 government officials and conservation and wildlife managers from 80 nations have been trained by our staff in wildlife and habitat conservation methods, monitoring techniques, and policy and management skills. Graduates of these courses have implemented programs that are preserving species and habitats in some of the world’s most isolated areas.

In addition, we work directly with teachers, students, and their parents to develop awareness of and appreciation for the need to preserve biodiversity at home and abroad. Educators praise us for its hands-on methods of teacher training and student involvement in conservation education.

The facilities and laboratories of the Conservation and Research Center Program are as diverse as its programs.

The cornerstone is the Conservation & Research Center, a 3,200-acre facility located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Front Royal, Virginia. This facility houses between 30 and 40 endangered species at any given time, which can change from year to year, depending on research needs and recommendations from the Zoo and the conservation community. Research facilities include a GIS lab, endocrine and gamete labs, veterinary clinic, radio tracking lab, 14 field stations, and biodiversity monitoring plots, as well as a conference center, dormitories, and education offices. more

At the Zoo in northwest Washington, D.C., are state-of-the-art nutrition labs, genetics labs, as well as a second reproductive sciences facility and genome resource bank. Also at the Zoo are facilities for conducting research on animals in the collection and coordinating conservation programs. more

The National Zoo is home to the Amazonia Science Gallery, where scientists showcase their work in a series of hands-on exhibits and interactive displays that allow Zoo visitors to witness and participate in our conservation science programs.

Finally, on the Smithsonian Mall below the U.S. Capitol, are offices that assist in coordinating international biodiversity monitoring initiatives and professional training around the world. more

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