In January, Ubiquitome announced the finalists of the Freedom For You grants program. The program was designed to provide support for remote qPCR projects, with each winner receiving a Freedom4 device. The ten selected finalists are receiving support from Ubiquitome in the form of Freedom4 qPCR reagents and consumables, project design consultation, and technical support, including wet lab processing. Three grant winners will receive a Freedom4 gold standard qPCR mobile device worth USD$25,000.
One of the selected finalists is Center for Molecular Dynamics (CMDN) Executive Director Dibesh Karmacharya for his research on snow leopard populations in Nepal.
Sir Karmacharya is heading a team undertaking non-invasion genetic population studies on snow leopards in the Himalayan ranges of Nepal. His work in the field of genetics ranges across a number of different disciplines from cancer and HIV to conservation genetics.
Sir Karmacharya is considered a leading expert on conservation genetics and non-invasive genetic techniques. Snow leopards are a highly elusive and endangered species with very little research conducted on them. Undertaking population analysis is a new endeavour and is important to understand their behaviour and improve conservation management efforts.
Sir Karmacharya and his team travel into known snow leopard habitats in the Himalayan range to collect putative snow leopard faecal samples (or scat). These faecal samples are sources of DNA that can shed light on things such as the size and genetic health of the population. However, visual field identification of snow leopard faeces is often challenging with, at best, only 50% identification accuracy when samples are later tested in the laboratory.
It is estimated that there is somewhere between 4000 and 7000 snow leopards remaining in the central Asian mountains. They are so threatened that the World Wildlife Fund has specialty units operating in these areas to protect the leopards from poachers and other such threats. Although snow leopards are a relatively well known species, very little research has been done on them. Sir Karmacharya’s study, which began in 2010, is the first snow leopard population genetics study conducted in Nepal, an area with a high proportion of the remaining snow leopard population.
Sir Karmacharya has published articles across a range of different genetic topics over the past 5 years. More recently, his published works have focused on leopard populations with the link below to one of the studies he collaborated with Dr. Achyut Aryal of Massey University describing non-invasive genetic population research on the snow leopard.
Aryal, A., Brunton, D., Ji, W., Karmacharya, D., McCarthy, T., Bencini, R., Raubenheimer, D. (2014) Multipronged strategy including genetic analysis for assessing conservation options for the snow leopard in the central Himalaya. Journal of Mammalogy 95:4
The time taken to test potential snow leopard scat samples is approximately a month from the time they are collected in the field. With only 50% of these samples originating from snow leopard, it can be a frustrating process for Sir Karmacharya. He is looking for a mobile molecular testing solution to identify species at the time scat is collected. Having a mobile device that can be taken to the remote Himalayan locations to perform qPCR analysis immediately on collected samples would save his team transporting and storing non-snow leopard samples for further analysis. This would save time and transprot costs, ensure they are following snow leopard tracks while still in the field and improve the overall success rate of these studies.
For more information on Mr Karmacharya’s research click here or to view a full list of the finalists visit our website www.ubiquitomebio.com.