The primary focus of the Saint Louis Zoo's Research Department is reproduction. This includes studies of behavior, physiology, endocrinology and gamete biology. Zoos must enhance captive breeding programs for future conservation recovery of threatened and endangered species. Because managing recovery programs involves controlling as well as increasing reproduction, development and testing of contraceptive methods is also important.

The Research Department uses minimally invasive techniques, such as ultrasound of reproductive anatomy and fetal development, time-lapse infrared videography of behavior, hormone assay of urinary and fecal hormones, and biotelemetry of temperature and activity.