Dr. Janine Brown: Distinguished Graduate in Science, Education, & Technology 2009

Janine Brown is head of the world’s largest wildlife Reproductive Endocrinology Laboratory, and for more than 20 years has been dedicated to improving the welfare and breeding management of endangered species in both captivity and the wild. Studying hormones in wild animals has its challenges; for that reason, she oversaw the development of non-invasive techniques for monitoring gonadal and adrenal activity through the analysis of steroids excreted in urine, feces and saliva. Her laboratory functions in three distinctly different ways; service, research, and outreach. In the service capacity, Dr. Brown and her team provide hormonal analyses to assess reproduction and welfare in a diverse array of species (carnivores, primates, ungulates, reptiles, avian). Over 60 zoos depend on this not-for-profit service, which is one way she “gives back” to the wildlife community. One benefit of this effort is amassing the largest, most comprehensive database on hormonal norms for these varied taxa. Her work helps drive specific research questions for numerous species and has resulted in the discovery of several unusual biological mechanisms. In her research capacity, Dr. Brown focuses on several high priority species, particularly elephants, rhinoceroses and felids-such as cheetahs, lions and clouded leopards. While her area of expertise is endocrinology, Dr. Brown promotes the integration of other disciplines (gamete biology, assisted reproduction, behavior, ultrasonography, small population management and health) into her research projects. Dr. Brown is the leading expert on elephant endocrinology, and developed a successful artificial insemination technique by identifying a unique hormone pattern that predicts three weeks in advance when ovulation will occur. In the outreach category, Dr. Brown serves as a Reproductive Advisor to several Taxon Advisory Groups – Elephant, Rhinoceros and Felid – providing advice and direct research assistance to promote successful reproduction. Moreover, much of her research has led to significant changes in zoo management and exhibit design. For example, to maximize reproductive success, breeding cheetah females are maintained in separate enclosures to prevent reproductive suppression, and seasonal animals are kept away from nighttime light festivals. To reduce stress, clouded leopard enclosures are especially tall, and black rhino exhibits limit perimeter exposure to the public. Dr. Brown is one of the most published female scientists at the Smithsonian Institution with > 150 refereed publications and book chapters. She has trained >70 graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and visiting scientists–and many of her trainees currently head endocrine/research programs at other zoos worldwide. Her training workshops have led to the establishment of endocrinology laboratories in Thailand (three), Brazil and Australia, leading to important hormone studies on native wildlife species. She has obtained well over $2,000,000 in grant support during the past ten years alone. For her efforts Dr. Brown was awarded the Washington State University Women’s History Alumni Recognition Award (2002). Due to her unique position Dr. Brown is commonly asked to talk about her experiences, and her most recent invited talk was given to members of the American Society of Animal Sciences regarding alternative careers in animal sciences (2008). This talk has inspired numerous (primarily female) animal science students to seek a similar career path to that of Dr. Brown. In this capacity, she is an outstanding role model for others in science. Dr. Brown received her Ph.D. in 1984 under Dr. Jerry Reeves.