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New Genomic Solutions for
Conservation Problems Workshop

Spring 2015

Revive & Restore organized a unique gathering of scientists to discuss “New Genomic Solutions for Conservation Problems.” Archipelago Consulting, and its principal, Kent Redford, was a co-organizer of the workshop.

The goal of our effort is to begin to create a future in which new genomic technologies can be considered thoughtfully and eventually deployed safely and effectively to help conserve the Earth’s biodiversity.

The conservation community is facing a range of intractable problems in their mission to ensure biodiversity conservation. Of particular concern are exotic diseases of wildlife and invasive species. Existing tools and approaches have proved largely ineffective in addressing these problems. However, opportunities are emerging based on new genetic tools being developed for human biomedicine as part of the new fields of synthetic biology and genomic technology.

Scientists have developed extremely precise genome-editing techniques such as CRISPR that may make it possible to adjust the genes of endangered wildlife populations toward disease resistance and even “facilitated adaptation.” The new “gene drive” mechanism has the potential to reduce or completely extirpate a population of rapidly reproducing sexual organisms such as mosquitoes, fleas, tree-killing insects, and invasive non-native plants and animals. These tools could be used to develop a sophisticated genomic toolkit for minimally disruptive “precision conservation,” if developed responsibly.

The workshop was designed as the critical first step in constructive engagement between the genomic technology community and the conservation community. By focusing on a specific set of case studies to which genomic techniques might be applied we were able to drill down on these scientific challenges but also open the larger conversation about the rights and responsibilities of these new technologies.

This workshop explored the application of genomic technologies (CRISPR, Gene Drives, RNAi and enginereed sterility) with a variety of conservation problems. Such tools have the potential to provide new solutions to some of the most intractable problems facing conservation: 1) exotic diseases of wildlife with known vectors, 2) exotic diseases with potential for genetic disease resistance, and 3) destructive invasive species.

Potential case studies included:

  1. Diseases with vectors:
  • Avian malaria (mosquitoes)
  • Sylvatic plague (fleas)
  1. Exotic diseases with potential for genetic disease resistance
  • Chytrid (amphibians)
  • White-nose syndrome (bats)
  • Herpes virus (Asian elephants)
  1. Invasive Species
  • Rodents on islands
  • Ants on islands

Participants met in one of the three groups listed above to drill down on these problems.

Workshop Cosponsors and Collaborators

Revive & Restore worked with a host committee that included these organizations:

Archipelago Consulting, EcoHealth Alliance, Island Conservation, San Diego Frozen Zoo, Turner Endangered Species, and the Wyss Institute. Sponsors to date include the Autodesk, National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, Turner Endangered Species Fund, USDA APHIS, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Zygote Ventures, and an anonymous large Charitable Trust.

Workshop Sponsors

Revive & Restore and Archipelago Consulting would like to acknowledge the following workshop sponsors:

  • Autodesk
  • National Park Service
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Turner Endangered Species Fund
  • Wyss Institute
  • Zygote Ventures (Jerry Fiddler)
  • Anonymous donor fund






USDA logo with text (1)



About the Organizers






Kent H. Redford, Principal, Archipelago Consulting. Workshop curation.

Kent H. Redford is the principal at Archipelago Consulting, established in 2011 and based in Portland, Maine. He was most recently Director of the WCS Institute and Vice President, Conservation Strategies at the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York.

For 20 years, Kent’s has convened groups of different sizes from a range of organizations and disciplines to address a broad range of conservation issues. His strategic planning has been invaluable for the New Genomics for Conservation Problems Workshop. Kent will also be curating the workshop to promote its goal of determining a small set of the cases presented at the meeting that offer the best opportunity for tool development and application, and begin further exploration.






Ryan Phelan, Executive director, Cofounder, Revive & Restore

Ryan is an entrepreneur in the for-profit and non-profit worlds. In addition to the New Genomics for Conservation Workshop, Ryan has convened four major events and meetings for Revive & Restore to promote its mission to enhance biodiversity through the genetic rescue of endangered and extinct species, including TEDxDeExtinction. See her bio here.






Perry Hall, Project Coordinator, Revive & Restore. Event Coordination.

Perry Hall manages the event coordination and logistics, workshop web site development, and provides general assistance to Revive & Restore’s executive director Ryan Phelan. Please contact Perry (perry[at]] if you have questions about lodging, travel, web content, and other workshop logistics.