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Technology Development and Capacity Building

The Joshua Tree Genome Project:
The Living Desert is the lead supporter of the Joshua Tree Genome Project through Willamette University. This project is key to developing a successful conservation for the Joshua tree using the power of genomic technology. An organism’s genome is the total set of DNA it inherits from its parents. By sequencing the genome of the Joshua tree, researchers will have a global view of the genes and regulatory elements that code for the chemical building blocks of a Joshua tree and control how it grows and responds to its environment. Knowing the genome sequence, researchers can begin to conduct experiments and analyses that can identify genes that may allow Joshua tree’s to adapt to changing desert climates.

Species Conservation Toolkit Initiative:
The Living Desert was founding supporter of the Species Conservation Toolkit Initiative in 2015 and continues to today. The Species Conservation Toolkit Initiative (SCTI) arose in response to a call from the IUCN SSC Conservation Planning Specialist Group for conservation partners to create and support the technical software tools needed for scientific and effective risk assessments and conservation planning for threatened species. The SCTI builds on the legacy of conservation tools developed by the Chicago Zoological Society, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and CPSG, including: Vortex, Outbreak, MetaModel Manager and PMx.

Assisted Reproductive Technologies for the Endangered Sand Cat:
In 2004, TLD in partnership with the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for the Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife facilitated the development of some assisted reproductive technologies for the endangered sand cat. The World’s first in vitro fertilized sand cat embryo and the first embryo fertilized in vitro with cryopreserved semen occurred at our facility. The researchers also: evaluated and froze semen collected from male sand cats maintained at the Al Ain Zoo, assessed functionality of frozen-thawed sand cat sperm via in vitro fertilization of sand cat oocytes, and investigated production of founder offspring following transfer of sand cat IVF embryos into synchronized female sand cats.

Rabies Vaccines for Wolves:
In 2008, The Living Desert coordinated and participated in a USDA study of the effectiveness of domestic dog rabies vaccines in Mexican gray wolves.

Jaguar Conservation Photo Bank:
In 2015 and 2016 The Living Desert participated in a project at the University of Massachusetts who are developing a database of jaguar photos to help develop coat-recognition software for camera trapping of wild jaguars. All four of our jaguars have had multiple photos at every imaginable angle entered into the database.

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