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Research Workshop

Linking and Leveraging Biological Collections: Zoos and Natural History Museums


Zoo and aquariums hold a wealth of biological resources in their live collections that is unique to these institutions. As modern zoos transition from exhibits to conservation organizations, they have started to focus on ways to enhance their contribution to the advancement of biological sciences and maximize the generation and dissemination of scientific knowledge gained. The
critical barrier, however, is that information from live collections at zoos are unknown or inaccessible to most researchers. Consequently, despite the obvious value of zoo collections, they remain an untapped resource. 

An obvious way to increase the impact of zoo collections is to increase their accessibility to researchers both within and beyond the zoo system. The value of wider access to collection data can be seen in the substantial advancements made with both live collections in botanical gardens and with animal specimens in museum collections. Through a two-day workshop, researchers from zoos, museums, and academic institutions will gather to discuss (1) concrete steps that zoos can take to make collection information available to researchers and (2) standard collaborations between zoos and museums, so that biological samples and information can be shared with the larger scientific community.  


Funding Source


Daily Schedule - May 3rd

***Please note all times are listed as US Eastern Time (GMT -4)***

11:00 - Introductions
Organizers Opening, Introductions

11:10 - A biologist walks into a Zoo…Untapped potential of living collections in Zoos for biology research
Steven Whitfield (Zoo Miami) & Sinlan Poo (Memphis Zoo)

11:30 - Are zoo specimens valuable as museum specimens?
Joe Mendelson (Zoo Atlanta)

11:50 - Science in the Zoo: Accessing the Bodies, Behavior and Minds of Living Collections
Rebecca Snyder (Oklahoma City Zoo)

12:10 - Zoos and pets are a good teaching and research resource for anatomical studies, a personal experience.
Juan Diego Daza (Sam Houston State University)

12:30 - Break-out Discussions
Pie in the Sky - What's the ultimate vision for a collaboration? What is the potential (ignoring all roadblocks)

1:00 - Break/Kumospace

1:30 - The power of standardization and data sharing across a global community of zoos and aquariums. Future directions of Zoo and Aquariums data integrations with other information systems.
Dalia Conde (Species 360)

1:50 - Mechanisms for extending core vocabularies - from Darwin Core extensions to ontologies for observations and measurements
Rob Guralnick (iDigBio)

2:10 - Break/Kumospace

2:40 - Update on NSF funding for Biological Collections in the US
Reed Beaman (NSF)

3:00 - The Great Divide?: Zoo-Mu participant insights
Alex Shepack (University of Notre Dame)

3:20 - Break/Kumospace

3:50 - Break-out Discussions
Where are roadblocks? What are the inherent limits of zoo animals as data sources? What obstacles are likely to be cultural (different values and interests between zoos and museums)?

4:20 - Research Department: Research, Sample Storage, & Data Management
Memphis Zoo Behind the Scenes Video with Sinlan Poo

4:50 - End

Daily Schedule - May 4th

***Please note all times are listed as US Eastern Time (GMT -4)***

11:00 - Annoucements

11:10 - iDigBio Extended Digital Specimens and Zoos
Gil Nelson (iDigBio)

11:30 - Managing a collection of ones and zeros: a brief history of museum databases and aggregators
Greg Watkins-Colwell (Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History)

11:50 - Archiving biological samples at the Sedgwick County Zoo/Maximizing research potential and minimizing biological waste – Sedgwick County Zoo’s collaboration with museums and universities
Sandy Wilson (Sedgwick County Zoo)

12:10 - The Facts in the Freezer: Creating a Biological Bank at the Oklahoma City Zoo
Jennifer D’Agostino (Oklahoma City Zoo)

12:30 - Break-out Discussions
How can we have zoos and musuems share samples and data more effectively?

1:00 - Break/Kumospace

1:30 - Mission Possible: Continuing the Conservation Story through Museum and University Partnerships
Jennifer D’Agostino (Oklahoma City Zoo)

1:50 - Life After Death: Leveraging Regional Educational Collections
Stephane Poulin (Arizona Sonora Desert Museum)

2:10 - It is frustrating being an user: high investment with low yield
Patricia Brennan (Mount Holyoke University)

2:30 - To Keep or not to keep: Impacts of permitting agencies on zoo-museum collaborations
Adam Ferguson (Field Museum) & Debbie Johnson (Brookfield Zoo)

2:50 Break-out Discussions
How can we have zoos share sample and data more effectively with resaerchers at academic institutions?

3:20 - Break/Kumospace

3:50 - Animal Programs and Curators: Live Collections Data, Population Management, and Cross-institutional Data Transfer
Memphis Zoo Behind the Scenes Video with Courtney Janney & Dan Dembiac

4:40 - End

Daily Schedule - May 5th

***Please note all times are listed as US Eastern Time (GMT -4)***

11:00 - Annoucements

11:10 - The Arctos Ecosystem: Linking preserved and living collections in the extended specimen network
Michelle Koo (UC Berkeley)

11:30 - (Re)Connecting history: provenance, health and diversity in the ape (Family Hominidae) collection of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.
Gary P. Aronsen, Megan Kirkham, Ryan McRae, and Katherine Walls (Yale University)

11:50 - Dreams and Challenges of Integrating Live Colony and Natural History Records at the Duke Lemur Center
Matthew Borths & Amanda Greene (Duke Lemur Center)

12:10 - Botanical Gardens: Sharing Digital Data from Living and Herbarium Collections
Barbara Thiers (New York Botanical Garden)

12:30 - Panel Discussion
Discussion on living collections & extended specimens led by Reed Beaman (NSF), Barbara Thiers (New York Botanical Garden), Gil Nelson (iDigBio), and Andy Bentley (University of Kansas)

1:30 - Break/Kumospace

2:00 - The potential impact of digital anatomical data from zoos
David Blackburn (University of Florida; oVert)

2:20 - No species left unscanned: how zoos can fill gaps in 3D imaging of museum specimens
Catherine Early (Science Museum of Minnesota)

2:40 - Vouchers and Genomic Research: The Overlooked Science of Linking the Living and the Dead
Prosanta Chakrabarty (Louisiana State University)

3:00 - Break/Kumospace

3:30 - Vet Hospital: Biological Samples, Digital Images, and Handling of Deceased Animals
Memphis Zoo Behind the Scenes Video with Felicia Knightly

4:00 - Break-out Discussions
What are:
1) Low-hanging fruit (what can we do NOW),
2) what's doable on a near-timescale (1 year) without extra funding,
3) What's ideal, but will require time, money, resources, and staff - but could be transformative?

4:50 - Closing - Next steps and plans for the future

5:00 - End


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