Since 2008, the joint Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and George Mason University Conservation Studies Program has trained future conservationists at SCBI headquarters, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park’s 3,200-acre facility in Front Royal, Virginia. Now, the Smithsonian-Mason program will have its a dedicated venue at this location in a green-design conservation complex said to embody the concept of the “living classroom.”
These three new green buildings will be built to LEED Gold standards and are expected to model best green practices, such green-roof technology, geothermal heating and cooling, composting kitchen waste, rainwater reuse and storm-water management. The complex will house classrooms, laboratories, dining and events facilities, dormitories and study halls for Smithsonian-Mason conservation students.
The Smithsonian–Mason Program began with 15 undergraduate students in fall 2008. When the complex is complete next year, SCBI Front Royal will be able to accept 60 undergraduate students and 60 graduate students and professionals.
SCBI currently serves as the umbrella for the Smithsonian’s conservation science efforts and houses its animal collection. By living in controlled environments, the 22 species — most of them little-known and endangered birds and mammals — allow for intensive study and the rapid acquisition of urgently needed information. Findings from these studies, according to SCBI, provide critical information for the management of captive populations and valuable insights for the conservation and management of wild populations.