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Ben Novak is the lead scientist at Revive & Restore, a leading wildlife conservation organization that promotes the incorporation of biotechnology in various conservation efforts.

He joins the show to discuss some fascinating topics, including the following:

  • What important function is carried out by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • How it would work to restore and bring to life the long-extinct woolly mammoth
  • The ever so relevant distinction between a species that is extinct versus “on ice”
  • How humans can act as surrogate mothers to simulate natural parenting and family environments for various species

Novak joined the Revive & Restore team in early 2012 to work on the Passenger Pigeon Project. Since then, he’s worked on a number of projects, including those involving the endangered black-footed ferret and endangered heath hens.

For over a century now, scientists have been restoring populations once they go extinct, but this hasn’t been done for every vital extinct species, such as the woolly mammoth and Passenger Pigeon. This is where the team at Revive & Restore sees the greatest potential for new biotechnologies to enhance and improve conservation efforts.

Among these technologies are animal gene editing, embryogenesis, and primordial germ cell transfer. Novak says that reproductive technologies are needed in order for their current projects to succeed, and he explains how the Catalyst Science Fund program has begun employing reproductive techniques for use in poultry, but not in wildlife. To reach this end, they are beginning with a project on the greater prairie chicken, which was funded just last year and has remained unimpeded since.

Novak discusses the details of the various projects they’re working on, how the prevention or reversal of species extinction could be accomplished with different biotechnologies, current restoration projects, and the many concerns and challenges encountered in this type of work.

Check out https://reviverestore.org/ to learn more.

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