Skip to main content

Black-footed ferrets were once thought to be extinct, until a small population was discovered in Wyoming in 1981. The species is still endangered, but scientists—including a George Mason University researcher and students at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (SMSC)—are coming to the rescue.

In December 2020, Willa, a black-footed ferret who died in 1988, was cloned using her cells that had been frozen. That clone, Elizabeth Ann, is now the first North American endangered species to be cloned in the United States. Senior Research Scientist Klaus-Peter Koepfli conducted critical research on her genetic cell line.

“As conservation geneticists, we try to understand how much variation there is and inform conservation breeding best practices,” Koepfli said. “This really is a revolution in terms of how we can use new tools to help endangered species.”

Read more.

About SMSC

We offer hands-on conservation training in the latest research and field techniques at the Smithsonian’s endangered species facility in Front Royal, Virginia.

Contact Us

Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation