A big part of what we do at Revive & Restore is bring together scientists conducting cutting-edge genomics research with the conservationists who are working in the field so that these new technologies may become an instrumental part of the twenty-first century conservation tool kit. The efforts we take to be active on social media, to engage with journalists covering conservation issues, and to jump start key genetic rescue projects mean that the ideas of genetic rescue and de-extinction are becoming part of the conservation conversation. What we didn’t realize … [Read More]
By Ben J. Novak
At the 2016 North American Ornithology Conference (NAOC) held this August in Washington D.C., Heath Hen de-extinction project leaders Ben Novak and Jeff Johnson organized and facilitated an important symposium: “Current and future prospects on avian de-extinction and genetic rescue”. While the Heath Hen and Passenger Pigeon de-extinction projects have begun to receive coverage in the press (see UnDark magazine‘s piece on resurrecting the heath hen and National Geographic on reviving the passenger pigeon), the versatile uses of genomic technologies for avian conservation hasn’t yet reached many professional and citizen scientists working to save birds and their habitats. Important scientific advances in Revive & Restore’s avian de-extinction work made for the perfect introduction to the growing applications of biotechnology for avian conservation.
The program’s eleven speakers introduced a set of diverse ways that avian conservationists can begin applying and developing new biotechnology tools to save birds. Tom Chase of The Nature Conservancy eloquently introduced the value of exploring these new solutions for intractable problems. He then discussed tactics to address the lack of awareness in the new genomic technologies in the communities that can benefit from their use. The key message was that these technologies are not last resort, fringe efforts for species, but an expanding tool kit for aiding conservation at every stage of management.
The symposium didn’t shy away from cutting edge science, introducing some of the preliminary genome editing and reproductive techniques being pioneered in biomedicine and agriculture using the domestic chicken model (Marie-Cecile van de Lavoir and Caitlyn Cooper). Such advances in the domestic chicken open the possibility of using advanced reproductive techniques for endangered birds to aid captive breeding programs. Genome editing may be used to facilitate adaptation to disease or human driven environmental changes.