THE BLACK-FOOTED FERRET PROJECT

PARTNERS & ADVISORS

This project has been made possible through the dedicated efforts of the following people and their respective institutions. Revive & Restore and the Black-footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team (BFFRIT) met for the first time at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center (NBFFCC) in 2014. Since that initial meeting, the Revive & Restore genetic rescue project for this species has involved the expertise of several organizations, as well as numerous collaborators and advisors.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Logo Revive & Restore

US FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE (USFWS)

The Service works to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all citizens, and ensuring the health of imperiled species and their habitats is a shared responsibility.

BLACK-FOOTED FERRET RECOVERY IMPLEMENTATION TEAM (BFFRIT)

Today, the USFWS leads the BFFRIT, a consortium of state agencies, First Nations governments, Federal agencies, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (which oversees the BFF Species Survival Plan), private landowners, and nonprofit organizations that provide essential guidance and support for BFF recovery efforts. A world leader in captive management and recovery, their innovations are often emulated by other endangered species programs. The adoption of new technologies by the BFFRIT has historically signaled the readiness of such technologies for use with other species. Pete Gober is the Recovery Coordinator for the BFFRIT.

THE NATIONAL BLACK FOOTED FERRET CONSERVATION CENTER (NBFFCC)

Operated by the USFWS, the NBFFCC is the primary breeding center for the BFFRIT. This operation has led to the breeding of the BFF and conditioning for wild release for over 30 years. It is home to 60% of the species’ captive population. Della Garelle and Robyn Bortner provided hands-on veterinary care for the clone, Elizabeth Ann.

 

The first Genomics Working Group meeting was held in 2014 and included (from left to right) Ryan Phelan (Revive & Restore), Seth Willey (USFWS), Oliver Ryder (San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, SDZWA), Colleen Lynch (Riverbanks Zoo and Garden), Pete Gober (USFWS, NBFFCC), Bob Wiese (SDZWA), Dean Biggins (US Geological Service, USGS), Stewart Brand (Revive & Restore), Ben Novak (Revive & Restore), Robyn Bortner (USFWS, NBFFCC), and Sarah Oyler-McCance (USGS).

GENOMICS WORKING GROUP

Revive & Restore and the USFWS met for the first time at the NBFFCC in 2014. After that meeting, they formed the Genomics Working Group in coordination with the Black-footed ferret Species Survival Plan, which continues to set annual meetings to coordinate genetic rescue and genomic management efforts. Since those beginnings, the Genomics Working Group has added a considerable number of members who work and consult on many aspects of the species’ genomic management.

Current members include Steven Buskirk (University of Wyoming), Graham Etherington (Earlham Institute), Della Garelle (USFWS, NBFFCC), Diane Genereux (Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard), Pete Gober (USFWS, NBFFCC), Debbie Grossblat (Colorado State University), Klaus Koepfli (Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, SCBI), Travis Livieri (Prairie Wildlife Research), Colleen Lynch (Riverbanks Zoo and Garden), Paul Marinari (SCBI), Kim Massey (USFWS, NBFFCC), Ben Novak (Revive & Restore), Steve Olson (Association of Zoos & Aquariums), Ryan Phelan (Revive & Restore), Tonie Rocke (USGS),  Oliver Ryder (SDZWA), Rachel Santymire (Lincoln Park Zoo), Patricia Stevens (Formerly of USGS), Brad Swanson (Department of Biology, Central Michigan University), Bob Wiese (Formerly of SDZWA), Samantha Wisely (Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida).

Former participants included: Seth Willey (USFWS), Julie Lyke (USFWS, NBFFCC), Tom Maloney (formerly Revive & Restore), and Ken Morgan (Colorado Parks & Wildlife Department).

SAN DIEGO ZOO WILDLIFE ALLIANCE (SDZWA)

A leader in wildlife conservation, the work of SDZWA includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The establishment of the SDZWA Frozen Zoo in 1975 by Dr. Kurt Benirschke and now led by Oliver Ryder, Ph.D., Director of Genetics for SDZWA, is instrumental in saving historic cell lines of the BFF, as well as the recently cloned Przewalski’s horse, and many other endangered species.

VIAGEN PETS AND EQUINE

Texas-based ViaGen Pets and Equine is the world’s leading cloning and genetic preservation company serving pet owners and horse breeders around the globe. Led by Blake Russel and Shawn Russel, this team is dedicated to conservation through partnership efforts with the San Diego Zoo and Revive & Restore. They are also partners, along with SDZWA, in the Revive & Restore Przewalski’s horse project.

ONGOING GENOMIC RESEARCH

Klaus-Peter Koepfli, of the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, now leads an expansive genomics research program for the BFFRIT Genomics Working group. This work builds upon the initial Black-footed ferret genomic study led and funded by Revive & Restore in 2014. Hundreds of genomes are now being sequenced to build genomic insight tools that can guide future management and genetic rescue decisions. Current partner institutions in this effort include the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, George Mason University; Broad Institute; Earlham Institute, UK; Institute of Molecular & Cellular Biology, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia; the International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium, UK; Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute; San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Institute for Conservation Research, and Revive & Restore.

Banner image of two Black-footed ferret kits, courtesy USFWS.