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Research Partner Program: Scientists use ZIMS to study lifespans for wild birds

The Egyptian vulture is classified “endangered” by IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

As bird populations decline in the wild, researchers at Romania’s Babes-Bolyai University are racing to better understand species’ ability to withstand disease and changes to their environment. To supplement decades of painstaking field studies, the team is turning to non-profit Species360 for missing data critical to finding answers.

The university is part of the Species360 Research Partner Program which provides access to the world’s largest set of wildlife data, the Zoological Information Management System. ZIMS is curated by wildlife experts at nearly 1,200 Species360 member zoos, aquariums, and refuge centers in 97 countries.

“The data collected by Species360 has unimaginable potential to explore demography, physiology, life-history, and so much more,” said Orsolya Vincze, PhD and research assistant, Babeș-Bolyai University. “Species360 has established an amazing foundation, providing data on hundreds of birds and mammals with much higher sample sizes compared to our previous data on 100-120 species of birds.”

Orsolya Vincze conducts critical research at Babes-Bolyai University.

Wild bird populations are in an extinction crisis.

To understand variations in immunity among wild birds, researchers require data across species and a representative set large enough to ensure that the findings are reliable. For the Babes-Bolyai team, that includes data on white blood cell count, agglutination, lysis and bacteria-killing capacity, plus insight to oxidative physiology, including lipid peroxidation and antioxidants.

Gathering the breadth and depth required can take months, even years, of painstaking sampling in the field. “The effort in the field was tremendous: we worked for over ten years, placing four to five people in the field every season,” said Vincze.

Babes-Bolyai researchers will use ZIMS for the wealth of reliable data needed to determine what equips some species to withstand disease, rebound from lower population sizes, and sustain longer lifespans. The connections between physiology, life-history and demography may provide clues to increasing lifespan in animals, and for improving what we know about the co-evolution between physiology and life histories.

More than 15 Universities and Research Institutions Participate in Species360 Research Partner Program

The Species360 Research Partner Program invites research and education organizations to connect with the Species360 community and to use ZIMS for research that advances animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Since its beginning, more than 15 universities and research centers have joined the program, including:

About Species360

Species360, a non-profit NGO and global leader in wildlife care and conservation, mobilizes a network of 1,200 aquarium, zoo, university, research and governmental members on six continents in 97 countries to improve animal welfare and species conservation. Our members address today’s most urgent wildlife issues, including establishing best practices in husbandry, enrichment, medical care, welfare, reproduction, population management, and biodiversity.

Together, Species360 members curate the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), the world’s most comprehensive open database of knowledge on more than 22,000 species. ZIMS vastly increases what is known about thousands of species, and is instrumental in identifying sustainability strategies for many of the species assessed as vulnerable, endangered, and extinct in the wild.

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