Revive and Restore is a California-based nonprofit that uses genetic engineering to help solve conservation problems, such as saving endangered species and increasing the biodiversity of ecosystems. To facilitate their solutions, Revive and Restore utilizes genetic engineering, which is the process of making changes to an organism’s DNA, or the set of instructions for how an organism develops and functions. One of their broad solutions is genetic rescue, which involves imbuing populations of endangered species with a wider variety of traits to make them more adaptable to a changing environment. Their other solution is de-extinction, which takes a more radical approach by attempting to recreate extinct species that performed important roles in their ecosystems. While scientists working with Revive and Restore have helped advance genome editing technology on a theoretical and technical level, their research has also prompted practical and ethical concerns over the extent of permissible human interference with nature, even when attempting to conserve it.
In 2015, Revive & Restore launched the Woolly Mammoth Revival Project with a goal of engineering a creature with genes from the woolly mammoth and introducing it back into the tundra to combat climate change. Revive & Restore is a nonprofit in California that uses genome editing technologies to enhance conservation efforts in sometimes controversial ways. In order to de-extinct the woolly mammoth, researchers theorize that they can manipulate the genome of the Asian elephant, which is the mammoth’s closest living evolutionary relative, to make it resemble the genome of the extinct woolly mammoth. While their goal is to create a new elephant-mammoth hybrid species, or a mammophant, that looks and functions like the extinct woolly mammoth, critics have suggested researchers involved in the project have misled and exaggerated the process. As of 2021, researchers have not yet succeeded in their efforts to de-extinct the woolly mammoth, but have expressed that it may become a reality within a decade.
The goal of this research project was to examine how different messaging techniques, and especially expressions of emotionality surrounding the loss and recovery of biodiversity, can differently influence public attitudes about conservation and the environment. This question was explored using the case of de-extinction, an emerging and controversial conservation technology. De-extinction claims to “resurrect” extinct species, challenging widely held notions of extinction as permanent. Yet seeing extinction as reversible may shift how people feel about biodiversity loss and our moral responsibility to stop it.