The value of reproductive biology is in understanding the diverse and wondrous ways that animals self-perpetuate.
This knowledge then becomes valuable for improving management and conservation programmes in zoos and in nature. Especially important is the integration of reproductive data with new knowledge about genetics, nutrition, behaviour and environmental toxicants.
The Reproductive Biology group, led by Dr Bill Holt, therefore studies fundamental mechanisms of reproduction in a diversity of species, including the Harbour porpoise, Red Panda and Mohor gazelle. Our funding sources include DEFRA, BBSRC, Wellcome Trust and a variety of industrial companies.
Dr Holt is focusing on gaining a greater understanding of the ways in which the female reproductive tract interacts with spermatozoa. The oviduct in particular is known to support the maintenance of sperm survival in vivo, and we have recently shown that proteins isolated from the apical plasma membranes of the pig oviduct can successfully lengthen the lifespan of spermatozoa in vitro.
Dr Holt also has an interest in understanding the basis of sperm cryopreservation, so that sperm can be maintained as a genetic resource for the future. Together with Professor Paul Watson (Royal Veterinary College, London) he has recently published a book on the potential of sperm cryopreservation for species conservation (Cryobanking the genetic resource: wildlife conservation for the future? Taylor & Francis, London. 2001).