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BIOTECHNOLOGY FOR BIRD CONSERVATION

Advancing Avian Reproductive Technologies

THE VISION

Imagine that it’s never too late to save a bird species, no matter how seemingly irreversible the threat. Imagine restoring historic genetic diversity to dwindling bird populations, providing immunity to invasive disease, or even adaptive traits to allow birds to overcome climate change. To make this vision a reality, we are calling for proposals from the world’s leading scientists to develop a suite of genetic rescue biotechnologies capable of helping birds of all kinds thrive in a world increasingly shaped by human-driven change.

Watch this graphic video, created and narrated by Ben Novak, to learn more about avian germ-line transmission 

THE URGENT NEED FOR GENETIC RESCUE

Humans have caused the extinction of 10-20% of all bird species in the last 50,000 years. Today, one-eighth of the surviving 11,000 bird species are threatened with extinction, despite conservation’s best available tools. 

THE THREAT OF CLIMATE CHANGE

In the coming decades, climate change is expected to quintuple the number of threatened birds in the United States alone. New innovative technologies could help conservationists overcome the threats of disease and climate change, and help restore genetic diversity to bottlenecked populations.

Nurturing embryonic development, Guojun Sheng, Kumamoto University

WHAT IS THE CURRENT LIMITATION?

The unique reproductive biology of birds makes it difficult to directly translate key technologies used for genetic rescue in mammals, like in vitro fertilization and cloning. Without reproductive technologies equivalent to cloning, conservationists cannot develop next-generation genetic rescue approaches for species in need today.

WHAT IS THE OPPORTUNITY?

An alternative to cloning, called germ-line transmission, has been pioneered for domestic chickens by biomedical researchers. With the right optimization, this technology can be leveraged for use with wild birds. The science behind this technique holds the promise that a diversity of innovations could be developed for birds that could unlock a versatility of genetic rescue capabilities.

Qi-Long Ying, University of Southern California

WHAT WILL IT TAKE?

Our goal with the Biotechnology for Bird Conservation Program is to mobilize leading experts in the fields of avian biology, stem cell science, biomedicine, and avian conservation to rapidly develop a suite of multipurpose genetic rescue biotechnologies useful to the entirety of bird diversity.

The Avian Genetic Rescue Consortium

Towards this goal, we have formed an international Avian Genetic Rescue Consortium to innovate these urgently needed technologies and continue to fund projects that will help turn our vision into a reality. In May 2022, we opened a global call for proposals to expand this consortium and bring new perspectives that could lead to the next cutting-edge technology that secures a future for the world’s birds.