The National Zoological Park's Conservation and Research Center, now called the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, was established in 1975 on 3,100 acres at a former US Army Cavalry Remount Station in Front Royal, Virginia, to encourage development of all aspects of animal sciences. Renamed the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in 2010, the institute's mission is the conservation of biodiversity through scientific research, professional training, and environmental education. Dr. Theodore H. Reed, then director of the National Zoo, had been searching over a decade for a captive breeding facility where animals could be studied and bred without the stress of public viewing, when he heard of the possibility of obtaining the old Remount Station property. Other locations were examined, including La Plata, Maryland; Virginia's Great Dismal Swamp; and a nine hundred acre portion of Camp A. P. Hill in Virginia; but none could compare with the potential and existing on-site facilities offered by the old remount depot. The property was occupied by the Smithsonian in 1974, and title to the land was received in 1975. The facility was named the Conservation and Research Center, and was staffed with a dozen employees from various National Zoo departments, as well as a handful of former Cavalry Remount Station and Beef Cattle Research Station employees. In 2010, the center was renamed the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Institute research has always covered a broad array of subjects including ethology, conservation biology, ecology and biodiversity monitoring, reproductive biology and animal health, genetic diversity and systematics, and nutrition and geographic information systems. CRC researchers are involved in groundbreaking research pertaining to the conservation of endangered species and ecosystems locally, nationally, and around the world. The institute breeds and houses a wide range of endangered species. Institute staff have focused on such endangered species as the last living family of black-footed ferrets, the Guam rail, cranes, clouded leopards, Przewalski's wild horses, and Matschie's tree kangaroos. The institute also trains wildlife biologists from developing countries and conducts international research projects, such as the elephants of Southeast Asia led by Christian Wemmer. The goal of their research programs is to develop long-term, collaborative conservation initiatives that utilize a diverse array of scientific, cultural, and political tools to understand and protect species and their ecosystems.
John F. Eisenberg (1935-2003) received his bachelor's degree from Washington State University and his master's and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1961. He joined the staff of the National Zoological Park as a mammalogist in 1965. In 1982 he joined the faculty of the University of Florida until his retirement in 2000. He was best known for his 1981 volume, The Mammalian Radiations: An Analysis of Trends in Evolution, Adaptation, and Behavior.
Eugene Maliniak (1926-1996), a World War II veteran, was hired as a keeper at the National Zoological Park in 1951. In his early years at the Zoo, he worked with birds, reptiles, carnivores, and bears before moving to the Small Mammal House from 1957 to 1965. In 1965, he transferred to the Department of Scientific Research where he assisted Zoo curators with research on animal behavior and nutrition, until his retirement in 1985.
Theodore H. Reed (1922-2013), veterinarian and zoo administrator, received the D.V.M. in 1945 from the School of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State College. From 1946 to 1955, he practiced as a veterinarian in Oregon and Idaho. He gained experience with exotic animals while serving as a veterinarian to the Portland Zoological Park from 1951 to 1955. In 1955, Reed was appointed Veterinarian at the National Zoological Park (NZP). In 1956, he was named Acting Director after the retirement of William M. Mann, and in 1958, he advanced to Director. During his tenure, Reed oversaw a capital renovation of the NZP; development of the Conservation and Research Center (CRC) in Front Royal, Virginia, in 1974; a transition from display of exotic specimens to breeding of endangered species; and many advances in exotic animal care and medicine. Reed retired from administration in 1983 and from the NZP in 1984.
Kenneth E. Stager (1915-2009) received a bachelor's degree in 1940 from the University of California at Los Angeles, a master's degree in zoology in 1953 and a doctorate in 1962 from the University of Southern California. He began working at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History as a student in the 1930s. He was appointed assistant curator in 1941 and curator of ornithology and mammalogy in 1946, remaining at the L.A. County Museum until his retirement in 1976. He was interviewed because of his field research in Southeast Asia and work with NZP staff.
Christen M. Wemmer (1943- ) directed the Conservation and Research Center (CRC), National Zoological Park (NZP) from 1974 to 2004. Wemmer received a B.S. and M.S. from San Francisco State College and the Ph.D. from University of Maryland in 1972, and began his career at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. He was the founding director of the Conservation and Research Center of the National Zoological Park since its creation in 1974.