The Memphis Zoo supports conservation-focused research and initiatives through our Conservation Action Network. C.A.N. is funded through voluntary round-ups when you make purchases in our gift shops, by special fundraising events, and through your earmarked donations. Lead by our staff, often in collaboration with colleagues around the world, C.A.N. provides annual grants after a thorough scientific review to ensure that your conservation dollars are having maximum impact on recovering and preserving imperiled animal species. You can make a real contribution to conservation by supporting C.A.N.
HEALTH AND DEMOGRAPHICS OF FRESHWATER TURTLES WITHIN THE MEMPHIS ZOO
PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR: DR. LORIN NEUMAN-LEE (ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY); CO-PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATORS: DR. SINLAN POO (MEMPHIS ZOO), COURTNEY JANNEY (MEMPHIS ZOO), DR. VIRGINIE ROLLAND (ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY), JEN TERRY (ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY)
Examining the demographics and physiology of animals is critical to understanding population health. The wild freshwater turtle population at the Memphis Zoo presents a great opportunity to examine turtles in a managed, urbanized habitat and highlight this population to guests. Through this CAN-funded project, we will assess the innate immune function of turtles in response to stress. We will develop signage, virtual materials, and Researcher Chats to educate and inspire the public about zoo research and native wildlife during and beyond sampling efforts. Findings from this project will be compared with data from a wild population in Arkansas to increase our understanding of freshwater turtle immune function. This research will tell us how wildlife uses managed habitats, while inspiring the public and fostering appreciation for the Memphis Zoo’s mission and wildlife at large.
INFLUENCE OF MICROHABITAT ON TORTOISE PHYSIOLOGY
PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR: DR. LORIN NEUMAN-LEE (ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY); CO-PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATORS: DR. SINLAN POO (MEMPHIS ZOO), CHRISTINA DEMBIEC (MEMPHIS ZOO), ALYSSA HARTZHEIM (ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY)
The Memphis Zoo is dedicated to utilizing science to improve the welfare of animals under human care. A crucial aspect to the health and welfare of tortoises is ambient heat, which must be available at optimal levels and offering variety so that the animals can choose their preferred conditions. By corelating thermal maps and preferences with physiological markers, this project will inform zookeepers which thermal gradients exist in captive tortoise enclosures and how the tortoises use or avoid them.
NONINVASIVE PREGNANCY DIAGNOSIS USING PREGNANCY-ASSOCIATED GLYCOPROTEIN AS A BIOMARKER AND DOMESTIC RUMINANTS AS A MODEL
CO-PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATORS: DR. MELANIE RICHTER (MEMPHIS ZOO) AND BETH ROBERTS (MEMPHIS ZOO)
Knowing that a captive animal is pregnant is crucial for several reasons. A pregnant female requires specialized monitoring of her health and pre-natal supplementation to insure the welfare of both mother and offspring. Preparations can be made to provide optimal denning or nesting conditions for a foreseen birth. However, the means of pregnancy detection is also important, and caregivers seek ways to confirm pregnancy in the easiest and most non-invasive way for the animal. This study investigates the feasibility of utilizing a ruminant-specific pregnancy marker to determine pregnancy in exotic ruminants using non-invasive sampling, and thus opening the door to developing a simple one-sample pregnancy test for hoofstock in zoos.
DOCUMENTING BREEDING SUCCESS OF A REINTRODUCED POPULATION OF THE CRITICALLY ENDANGERED DUSKY GOPHER FROG
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: ALLISON BOGISICH (MEMPHIS ZOO)
Through captive-release programs hold promise for endangered amphibian recovery, it is important to determine the effectiveness of adding animals from captive source populations to protected natural habitat. One of the Memphis Zoo’s most impactful conservation initiatives is its work in establishing a new, self-sustaining population of the critically endangered dusky gopher frog in restored habitat along coastal Mississippi. Captive-bred frogs were first released in 2019, and today these frogs are beginning to reproduce on their own, giving researchers hope for ultimate success. Augmenting external funding from AZA, this study seeks to provide important insights into the dynamics of our nascent zoo-founded wild population, answering questions regarding survivorship rate, genetic diversity composition, and reproduction rate.
INVESTIGATING THE EFFECTS OF CAPTIVITY ON THE HEALTH AND REPRODUCTION OF WILD- AND CAPTIVE-BORN AMPHIBIANS
PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR: DR. SINLAN POO (MEMPHIS ZOO)
A common theme in zoo research is improving the welfare of animals living in zoos. The Memphis Zoo is taking this one step further by including the offspring of captive animals, after they have been released into the wild for conservation purposes, into our scientific investigations. Researchers are studying long-term wellness and survival by comparing individuals which were the offspring of natural breeding versus those produced by laboratory-based methods such as in vitro fertilization and the use of cryogenically preserved sperm. This pioneering research is providing insights into the interplay between captivity, captive-breeding, health, and direct/indirect measurements of reproductive output in a model amphibian species.
REFINEMENT OF ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE LOUISIANA PINESNAKE
PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR: DR. MARK SANDFOSS (MEMPHIS ZOO)
A flagship conservation program at the Memphis Zoo is its 40-year focus on the Rarest Snake in North America – the Louisiana pinesnake. Today, the Memphis Zoo is venturing onto the edge of scientific discovery by inventing new ways to improve reproduction in these snakes, and to preserve precious genetic diversity as it continues to rapidly decline in the remaining wild populations. This grant supplements federal funding and supports the continuation of our ongoing work to develop effective cryo-preservation protocols for endangered snake gametes and augment genetic diversity in captive assurance colonies using wild-living sources.