Welcome to “de-extinction” or reversing the process of extinction
Stanley Temple, Emeritus Professor
Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
2:57 – Total Time
0:18 – A definition of de-extinction
1:01 – A career bringing wildlife back
1:43 – How it may develop
2:13 – Importance of conservation
2:46 – Lead out
Sevie Kenyon: Stan, can you start by giving us a definition of de-extinction?
Stanley Temple: De-extinction is a recent term that involves bringing back an extinct species using DNA that’s been recovered from preserved material. There are two ways that it can be accomplished. One would be cloning; the second way is through genetic engineering to recreate a close approximation of what the extinct species might have once been. The reality is that it’s no longer science fiction. We’re getting very close to having the biotechnology that will allow us to revive extinct species from recovered DNA.
Sevie Kenyon: Stan, how are you interested in this topic?
Stanley Temple: Well, I spent my entire career working to save endangered species and was able to work with some of the rarest species in the world, and fortunately I was able to retire with none of those species going extinct on my watch. But I do have a passion for preserving the biological diversity of the world, and de-extinction provides a completely new and exciting, but nonetheless sort of daunting challenge for conservation of whether this is really a technology that we want to embrace fully, or one that we want to be somewhat skeptical and cautious about.
Sevie Kenyon: And Stan, where would you go with this?
Stanley Temple: The biotech folks in the laboratory are gonna be responsible for turning that DNA into an individual. But once they’ve done that, then the job gets handed over to people like myself, who are good at recovering endangered species who know how to take a small number of individuals, and turn them into a population and get them back into the wild.
Sevie Kenyon: Stan for someone driving to work, what would you like them to think about regarding de-extinction?
Stanley Temple: I think one of the things that we need to be very concerned about is that de-extinction DOESN’T provide the opportunity for us to ignore the significance of extinction. To think that, ‘Oh well, we can let species go extinct because we can always save some DNA, and bring them back later’. We are in a crisis right now, of losing species from this planet. And, biotechnology not withstanding, those that are lost, are lost forever.
Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Stan Temple, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, and The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, Wisconsin and I’m Sevie Kenyon.