FIU, Zoo Miami create research partnership


FIU and Zoo Miami officials signed a research memorandum of understanding July 16. Along with the giraffes, also attending the signing were: Arts & Sciences Dean Kenneth G. Furton, Zoo Miami Director Eric Stephens, FIU Provost Douglas Wartzok, Zoological Society of Florida Chairman Harlan Chiron and Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Dean Mike Hampton.

FIU and Zoo Miami signed a memorandum of understanding July 16 to explore and develop greater research and community outreach initiatives.

The formally established partnership, dubbed Zoo Biology, will focus on key areas including reproduction, demographics, genetics, behavior, medicine, husbandry, nutrition, conservation and all aspects related to exhibition and maintenance of wild animals in wildlife parks, zoos and aquariums.

Work will begin immediately on joint research initiatives and the establishment of internship opportunities for students in the College of Arts & Sciences and Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Long-term, the MOU calls for the creation of Ph.D. projects, public seminars on biodiversity and conservation, professional courses on zoo management and policy, and more.

“A partnership between FIU and Zoo Miami brings together two world-class institutions to help define a 21st century zoo as a locus for high quality research and conservation leadership,” said FIU Provost Douglas Wartzok.

The partnership will expand on the two entities’ existing relationship. Currently, faculty members from FIU’s Department of Biological Sciences use the zoo collection for research. In addition, the School of Environment, Arts and Society hosts public science seminars at the zoo.

“We are thrilled to take this next step in our relationship with Florida International University,” said Eric Stephens, director of Zoo Miami. “The conservation work that we will accomplish together will be so much more vital because we are partners in the effort.”

The newly formed partnership will be modeled after the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ conservation strategy, which calls for active integration of the research community and the public consciousness to bring about sound scientific decisions for the world’s wildlife.

“It is with great pleasure to see this cooperation evolving, with this FIU and Zoo Miami are at the forefront of zoo and science cooperation,” said Gerald Dick, executive director of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. “In times of dwindling biodiversity and diminishing human-nature contact research, education and practical work, such as in a zoo, are urgently needed to be combined in order to maximize outreach for conservation.”

Today, Zoo Miami houses one of the most diverse wildlife collections in the United States and is internationally recognized for its success in the captive breeding of threatened species. FIU, with a commitment to deliver education and research programs that serve the needs of the local and global communities, has a long history of excellence in tropical biology with a particular expertise in the regions of South Florida, the Caribbean and Latin America.