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ASU School of Life Sciences and Phoenix Zoo have launched a new program to strengthen animal conservation efforts by collaborating on new research, as well as improve conservation communications and outreach to the public.
Modern, professionally managed zoos often serve as global conservation agents — working to save species, educate the public about species loss and recovery, practice conservation breeding and reintroduce animals into the wild. These important efforts depend on understanding the scientific complexities of the animals and their habitats, as well as the history, ethics and policies that deeply impact animal survival.
For the first time, the two organizations are jointly supporting a new conservation research fellowship. Jan Schipper, whose position is funded in part from philanthropic donations, will develop a conservation research project that connects the research community in the school to conservation professionals and managers at the zoo.
He will also contribute to the Zoo’s education and outreach efforts, sharing engaging stories about the importance of animal conservation. This partnership will provide new ways for undergraduate and graduate students to be directly involved in research at the zoo.
Additionally, Ben Minteer, Arizona Zoological Society Chair in the School of Life Sciences, will engage in a multi-year project focused on the science, ethics, and history of zoo conservation.
For more than 50 years, the Phoenix Zoo has been a global leader in conservation in some high profile cases, including preserving the black-footed ferret, the Chiricahua leopard frog, and the Arabian Oryx. The zoo is re-doubling its conservation efforts, which provides an important platform for ASU researchers.
In 2009, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. joined Arizona State University in an innovative education and science partnership aimed at sustaining biodiversity on Earth. This affiliation was created to acquire and share technology, education and outreach, and interdisciplinary research innovations in: social systems; ecosystem services; sustainability; biodiversity and genetics; and alternative energy.
The School of Life Sciences leads this endeavor with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama. The partnership creates opportunities for Smithsonian scientists to participate in ASU degree programs and for ASU undergraduates, graduate students and faculty to participate in fieldwork at the Panama facility.
The Smithsonian Tropical Research institute offers facilities that allow staff scientists, fellows, and visiting scientists to pursue a range of tropical studies. These include everything from field studies in sustainability and eco-services to investigations of molecular and marine sciences and sociobiology.
The ASU-SI program focuses on sustainability — measured by studies of ecosystem services, including insect behavior and social structure in changing environments, biofuels and new world-wide web-based approaches to taxonomy. Educational experiences created by new ASU-Smithsonian virtual learning sessions are expected to extend beyond Arizona State to users, such as K-12 classrooms, worldwide.