The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded the Memphis Zoo two grants totaling $627,160. The first grant, issued under the Museums for America Program, will assist the Memphis Zoo in making environmental and collection improvements to the Herpetarium Building. This grant totaled $146,745. The second grant, under the National Leadership Program, will help establish the country’s first National Amphibian Genome Bank (NAGB) and totaled $480,415.
“These awards will help facilitate groundbreaking research in the area of amphibian and reptile reproduction and conservation,” said Dr. Chuck Brady, CEO of the Memphis Zoo. “Grants like this one are critical to the Memphis Zoo’s vision of preserving wildlife through education, research, and conservation as we continue to build on the Zoo’s reputation as a world leader in developing assisted reproductive technologies for amphibians, reintroductions of threatened species and support for Species Survival Programs (SSP).”
Dr. Steve Reichling, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians, will serve as the principal investigator for the first of the two grants, which is focused on sustainability of captive collections and support for species survival programs. According to Reichling, the grant will allow for improvements to the current Herpetarium building, built in 1960, including installing new animal exhibits and improving the heating and lighting units to make sure we are providing optimal health, environmental enrichment and welfare to the species in the Zoo’s collection. The majority of the modifications will be done in the behind-the-scenes holding area, to be renamed the Conserving Amphibians and Reptiles from Extinction (CARE) Center in honor of the award and expanded conservation efforts by the zoo for threatened reptiles and amphibians. It is anticipated that the environmental enhancements and improved holding capacity will result in an increase in the number of SSP supported by the Memphis Zoo.
The second grant provides logistical and research support to the country’s first National Amphibian Genome Bank (NAGB). Dr. Andy Kouba will serve as principal investigator for the second grant focused on collecting genetic material from threatened captive and wild amphibian species to prevent imminent extinctions. Results to date from the NAGB conservation work has resulted in the production of hundreds of tadpoles from frozen-thawed sperm and over a hundred thousand tadpoles, from various species, released into the wild due to improvements in assisted breeding.
“A little over 30% of all amphibians are currently vulnerable or threatened with extinction and are at risk of disappearing forever,” says Dr. Kouba. “This grant will allow us the opportunity to help re-establish native populations of endangered amphibian species by securing our captive assurance colonies and providing animals for reintroduction programs.”
Although led by the Memphis Zoo and Mississippi State University, a number of other partners have committed time and resources to this National Leadership Grant including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, State Fish and Wildlife agencies, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, Fort Worth Zoo, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Amphibian Ark, Amphibian Survival Alliance, Houston Zoo, Toronto Zoo and Detroit Zoo. Collectively, the grant and program will employ a number of undergraduate and graduate students, research associates and post-doctoral fellows in conservation biology, providing training and capacity building for future professionals in wildlife management. Lastly, the grant will allow for outreach and educational experiences for Memphis Zoo visitors to learn about the amphibian extinction crisis and what they can do to help.
Out of 583 applications, IMLS awarded 217 grants totaling $25,996,400. The Memphis Zoo was one of only five zoos to receive a grant.
About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow on Facebook and Twitter.