SCBI lecture series resumes Oct. 1

Smithsonian scientists and other conservation professionals resume a free Wednesday-night lecture series at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s (SCBI) new Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (SMSC), which is cosponsoring the series starting next Wednesday (Oct. 1).

Follow as the scientists travel the globe to study and protect species and ecosystems, and share their adventures via their presentations, which run through Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. Wednesdays at the SMSC dining hall, 1500 Remount Rd., Front Royal. (The dining hall will be open from 5 to 6:30 p.m. for dinner on lecture dates; rsvp to to reserve.)

The schedule:

Oct. 1: Nucharin Songsasen on “Global Canid Conservation: Multidisciplinary Approach to Conserve Rare and Endangered Canids”

The canid (dog-like) family is diverse in shape, size and natural distributions. Ranging from the smallest (the fennec fox weighing less than 1 kilogram) to the largest (the timber wolf exceeding 50 kilograms), at least one species of canid lives 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 research biologist Dr. Nucharin Songsasen will discuss the fascinating nature of canids and share her experiences using multidisciplinary approaches to study and conserve wild canids in zoos and in their natural habitats in South America and Southeast Asia.

Oct. 8: Pan Wenshi on “A Conservation Ethic for China: Finding a Place for Animals in a Developing World”

As one of the founding fathers of the modern conservation movement in China, professor Pan Wenshi started his conservation 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 that study’s outcomes. He will also 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: Copper Aitken-Palmer and Elizabeth Freeman on “Unlocking the Mysteries of the Adorable Red Panda”

The strikingly-patterned and charismatic red panda, Ailurus fulgens, is a taxonomically distinct carnivore that is vulnerable to extinction. Red pandas eat only bamboo and have developed many unique adaptations to survive on diet of such low nutritional quality. The popular zoo species is historically distributed among an important biological hotspot, the Himalayans, where only about 10,000 individuals remain. Although the National Zoo and SCBI have been at the forefront of red panda breeding, management and research for three decades, there is still much we have to learn about this species. Drs. Copper Aitken-Palmer and Elizabeth Freeman will share their knowledge and describe research they are conducting to advance the well-being of this adorable species through health and reproductive initiatives.

Oct. 22: Matt Evans on “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. Matt Evans, who has participated in this program for the past five years, will discuss his field excursion to the Darien Gap in search of Atelopus glyphus, one of the harlequin toads facing extinction in the region due to the spread of amphibian chytrid fungus.

Oct. 29: Tom Akre on “Conserving the Public Interest: Virginia Working Landscapes and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute”

Eighty years ago, Aldo Leopold, the father of the modern American conservation movement, understood that “conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.” This prescient view has never been more true than it is today, especially in the eastern U.S., where more than 90 percent of lands are privately held. In 2010, SCBI began the Virginia Working Landscapes program to address a grassroots demand for best management practices for conservation of biodiversity and nature’s benefits on the suburban, agricultural and forested mosaic of the region. VWL director Tom Akre will discuss how the project leverages the capacity of the Smithsonian with a regional network of federal and state partners, conservation NGOs, private landowners and volunteer citizen scientists to promote sustainable use of Virginia’s landscapes through ecosystem research, habitat monitoring and community engagement.

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