11th International Conference on Behavior, Physiology and Genetics of Wildlife

BMC Zoology recently attended the International Conference on Behavior, Physiology and Genetics in Wildlife, organized by the Leibniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). The conference offered a wonderful mix of high caliber plenary speakers, an engaging social program and interesting talks around conservation and reproduction biology.

The conference started with a plenary by Cheryl Asa from the AZA Reproductive Management Center at Saint Louis Zoo. Reproduction in zoos is important to maintain captive populations without importing animals from the wild. Cheryl spoke on the evolving role of reproductive biology in zoos including its challenges such as genetic health, mate incompatibility and female infertility.

Other interesting talks on the first day focused on wolf conservation in Portugal, the restoration of the North Persian leopard population in the Russian Caucasus and snaring of spotted hyenas in the Serengeti. Annika Tiesmeyer’s research on the assessment of the conservation status through a clever monitoring technique on the example of the European wildcat was a nice example of a citizen science project where average citizens helped by collecting wildcat DNA from valerian-treated hair traps.

The second day was opened with an excellent plenary talk by Steven R. Beissinger from the University of California on the climate and land-use impacts on the metacommunity dynamics of California birds and mammals. A key aspect of Steven’s talk was the importance of linking the past to the future on the example of the pen and paper notes by Joseph Grinnell and his colleagues. Steven and his team resampled historical biodiversity surveys of Grinnell originally surveyed for birds and mammals from 1908-1939 to understand the influence of 20th century environmental changes on biodiversity. In this context, Steven stressed that one day the notes we take today will be historic and highlighted the importance of data preservation. Incidentally, our sister journal BMC Research Notes has recently launched data notes with the goal to support researchers with good data practice and to preserve valuable research data.

Someday your data will be historic. How will you preserve it?

Steven R. Beissinger

During the 2nd poster session in one of the impressive glasshouses of the Berlin Botanical Garden, thunderstorm “Xavier” reached full strength and forced delegates to stay inside. The organizers’ talent for improvisation came to light as delegates could not come to the talks; the talks were brought to the delegates. Daniel Blumenstein opened the session with an excellent overview of his work on social relationships in marmots. An interesting take away message was that meaningful social relationships can buffer stress and enhance security in marmots – perhaps something for all of us to remember!

Another fantastic plenary talk was delivered on the final day by Klaus-Peter Koepfli from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute National Zoological Park. In his talk, Klaus-Peter Koepfli provided an overview of a program to develop and apply data derived from whole genome sequences to the management of ex situ population of endangered species, specifically the sable anteleope and the black-footed ferret.

BMC sponsored the conference and the winner and runner-up of the poster competition received a full and half-waiver of the article processing charge for a publication in a BMC series journal. Iris Tarmann won the prize for best poster with her work on the impact of global warming on hibernation of garden dormice. Jessica Svea Cornils was a close second by popular vote with her work on why edible dormice prefer areas with diverse tree species to optimize survival and reproduction.

Credit: Leibniz-IZW.

Following the closing session, delegates were invited to a guided tour through the Leibniz-IZW. As an internationally respected research institution, the Leibniz-IZW conducts research on the evolutionary adaptation of wildlife populations and develops new concepts and measures for wildlife conservation with a focus on mammals. A highlight of the tour was the presentation of the cutting-edge CT scanner in veterinary medicine by Guido Fritsch which can be used for large cats and has even seen famous Berlin polar bear Knut following his unexpected death in 2011.

The BPG conference organized every two years by the IZW and EAZA is a small but fantastic conference that researchers working on the behavior, physiology and genetics of wildlife animals will enjoy. BMC Zoology was impressed with the line-up of high quality plenary speakers and we would be delighted to visit Berlin again in two years.

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