CINCINNATI, OH (August 7, 2023) – Scientists at The Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden will now be able to expand research efforts that currently focus on polar bears to include all bears thanks to a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
“We’re thrilled to receive this funding” said CREW’s Director of Polar Bear Signature Project, Dr. Erin Curry. “Despite the popularity of bears, we know very little about their reproductive processes compared to other species. This award will allow us to build on more than a decade of polar bear reproduction research and address the critical needs of other threatened and endangered bear species.”
Through collaborations with zoos across the nation, the research team will evaluate and implement innovative reproductive monitoring techniques and establish a standard of best practices in fertility assessments.
“The funding will help us enhance reproduction, advance reproductive monitoring techniques, and preserve genetic material by expanding our assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) practices across bear species,” said Curry. “We will develop methods to better evaluate markers of reproductive health and animal well-being and, because there’s no reliable method of pregnancy detection in bears, we will continue to explore novel methods for pregnancy diagnosis using cutting-edge techniques.”
Scientists at CREW are committed to training the next generation of wildlife conservationists. “The award will allow us to train a Post-doctoral Scientist and add three paid IMLS Scholar positions. The ability to offer a generous stipend to trainees will remove barriers associated with financial hardship, opening the opportunity to more individuals.” Additionally, CREW scientists will cross-train with researchers at the Memphis Zoo to build capacity and strengthen relationships among zoological research facilities.
Bears in the wild are logistically challenging to study, but zoo bears provide unique opportunities to learn about the physiology and behavior of their wild cousins. We hope that the results of our efforts will help to improve the conservation and management of wild bear populations, many of which are threatened or endangered,” said Curry.
The Cincinnati Zoo is one of only 10 accredited zoos in the U.S. that have reproductive biologists on staff. Over the past 20 years, scientists at CREW have conducted multiple studies that have advanced knowledge of the reproductive physiology of threatened and endangered species, most notably in rhinos, imperiled cats, and polar bears.