MCCS 0525: Non-Invasive Techniques and Applications in Wildlife Endocrinology

IMG_2746Wildlife endocrinology is a growing field and an increasingly important conservation tool that can help managers better understand the factors impacting health and reproduction in captive and wild populations. Especially important has been the development of noninvasive techniques, which can assess hormone metabolites excreted in urine and feces. Evaluating hormones allows determination of: 1) the reproductive cycle, including puberty, timing of sexual receptivity, and onset of reproductive aging; 2) the effects of different husbandry practices and environmental enrichment on animal well-being; 3) animal pregnancy and the possible date of birth; 4) optimal hormone treatments for artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization; and 5) the impact of human activities or environmental changes on reproduction and health of free-ranging species. The National Zoo’s Endocrinology Laboratory, based in Front Royal, was founded in 1986 and today conducts hormone analyses for zoo- and field-based research projects around the globe. It is the world’s largest diagnostic service and research laboratory for wildlife endocrinology and the lab’s director, Dr. Janine Brown, has extensive experience in the development of non-invasive endocrine techniques.

Nat.Lab.6501The purpose of this course is to provide theoretical information and practical experience in using endocrine monitoring techniques for assessing reproductive status and welfare in wildlife species, both in captive and wild scenarios. Theory – Lectures will cover aspects of basic biology, theory of immunoassay methodology (radioimmunoassay and enzyme immunoassay), reproductive endocrinology and stress physiology, methods of non-invasive monitoring of hormones excreted in urine and feces, sample preparation and hormone extraction techniques, and examples of data obtained from in-situ and ex situ studies of wildlife species. Practical – Lab work will be a large component of the course and will include demonstrations and hands-on experience in sample (urine and feces) processing and analysis using enzyme immunoassay technology. Computer lab sessions will include statistical hormone analyses techniques. Substantial time will be provided for participants to work on independent group projects where they will apply what they have learned and complete a full lab analysis and data interpretation themselves. The skills learned throughout the course will enable participants to develop research projects that incorporate non-invasive hormone monitoring. Samples used in lab exercises will be real samples from the SCBI animal collection, providing relevant real-world case studies with testable hypotheses. A comprehensive endocrine training manual will be provided to course participants.



July 23- August 3, 2018


Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia

Application Procedure

Non-Invasive Techniques in Wildlife Endocrinology is offered through the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation as a professional training course for 6 Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Applications should be submitted using our Online Application System. If this is your first time using our system, you’ll be asking to first register and create a profile. You’ll need to attach an updated CV/Resume to create your profile and a Personal Statement of Interest and Qualifications (maximum 500 words) to complete a course application.

For first consideration, apply before May 14, 2018.

Course Costs

Payment Deadline: May 28, 2018. Note that your acceptance to the course does not guarantee you a seat in the course. Seats are allocated as registration payments are received, and early registration is strongly encouraged to ensure your space in the course.

The total cost for this course is $2,925.50 (Course fee of $2,100 + Housing and Dining Package of $825.50). Those applying as citizens of “less-developed” nations qualify for a reduced course fee of $1,200, making the total cost including housing (shared double room) and dining package $2,025.50. Click HERE to check if your country of citizenship qualifies you for the reduced course fee. Your total course payment includes:

  • Registration fees
  • Instruction, course manual, textbooks and other course materials
  • All lab supplies used in demonstration and guided independent lab work
  • Airport pick-up and drop-off. Participants should plan to arrive to Dulles International Airport (IAD). Shuttle pick-up date at Dulles Airport will be Sunday, July 22, and the time will be 4:30pm (16:30h). Individuals whose flight options are limited should plan to arrive the night before (July 21) and book into overnight accommodation in the Dulles-Washington, DC vicinity, so they can meet this Sunday afternoon shuttle. Otherwise a taxi can be arranged for approximately $100. Our drop-off shuttle departs from SMSC (to IAD) on Saturday August 4 at 8am.
  • Daily full-service buffet at the SMSC Dining Commons – Dining begins with dinner on Sunday, July 22 and ends with breakfast on Saturday, August 4.
  • Housing at the SMSC Residential Facility, including a shared room with bathroom (single rooms available at extra cost) – Lodging begins Sunday night, July 22 and check out is Saturday, August 4.


With course coordinator’s written approval in advance of registration/payment, local participants may elect to stay off campus, waive the housing and dining package, and commute to this course. Meals in the Dining Commons can then be purchased individually as needed.

For more information