The Red Siskin Initiative (RSI) has had its most successful year yet, thanks to the hard work and contributions of team members and supporters! We look forward to an even bigger and busier 2016 with major new phases and initiatives planned for research (captive breeding, genomics, agroecology, and ﬁeld surveys in Guyana and Caribbean), fundraising to construct a breeding center at Parque Zoológico y Botánico Bararida (PZBB) and implementing a social marketing campaign to combat the wildlife trade. Read on for updates on project priorities.
Happy Holidays to all!
Captive Breeding -‐ A research population of captive Red Siskins has oﬃcially been established at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). The ﬁrst pair of Red Siskins were transferred from Toldeo zoo to SCBI in October 2015. Five more breeding pairs, generously donated by Jim Sillers, will arrive November 2015.
Molecular Research-‐ Whole genome sequencing of Red Siskins by the Duke Center for Genomic and Computational Biology is nearly complete. Our bioinformatics team from the Smithsonian and University of Maryland will begin de novo genome assembly this month. We expect one of the highest quality bird genomes produced to date, which will fully enable development of a hybrid detection assay and the other extensive molecular work that we have planned.
Website -‐ An English version of www.RedSiskin.org was launched in August. A Spanish version is in the works. Upcoming features include interviews with team members and regular updates on research.
Venezuelan Coordinator Hired -‐ In September, the Smithsonian Grand Challenges Consortia awarded the RSI a stipend to hire Miguel Angel Arvelo as project coordinator for Venezuela. Miguel holds a DVM, has experience in government and zoo administration, and has been an RSI partner for two years. Miguel’s skill, energy and dedication will increase productivity in all project facets.
PZBB Red Siskin Breeding and Education Center -‐ Will Ruhl, Ruhl Walker architects, will travel to Australia in February to study the breeding facilities of the Save the Gouldian Finch project (www.sarahpryke.com) and work with the lead building contractor and Mike Fidler, project co- founder and expert ﬁnch aviculturalist, to further the design of the PZBB complex.
Field Research -‐ The Venezuelan ﬁeld crew has made seven ﬁeld trips since May, and has collected habitat data and searched for siskins in over 30 locations -‐ none with sightings yet, but many with promising habitat.
In Guyana, the South Rupununi Conservation Society (SRCS) has made six trips since May 2015 to document behavior and habitat, band birds and collect data to help reﬁne range estimates. As always, direct ﬁeld training and education in conservation and bird observation skills for students and local community members are a major focus of all SRCS ﬁeld trips.
Using recent and historical data, the RSI is developing new protocols for long-‐term population monitoring and will implement these in 2016.