New Update and Video from Conservation Geneticist Dr. Natalie Schmitt

Snow Leopard by Hans De Bisschop. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In November of 2017, I published a Q&A post with Dr. Natalie Schmitt. Dr. Schmitt is a conservation geneticist who is developing a DNA field kit to help scientists study snow leopards (Panthera uncia). The paper kit can confirm whether or not a scat (poop) sample is from a snow leopard, dramatically reducing identification errors in the field. This will make snow leopard research much more efficient. Dr. Schmitt’s vital work has recently been highlighted by one of her supporters: the big cat conservation NGO Panthera.

On February 12, Dr. Schmitt wrote a blog post on Panthera’s website about her journey. She talks about how Sir David Attenborough’s documentaries and Dr. Jane Goodall’s story inspired her to get involved in conservation, and how she eventually earned her PhD while studying whales in Antarctica.

Am I the only one who thinks that Antarctica would be an incredible travel destination? Antarctica by Ronald Woan. CC BY-NC 2.0

When Dr. Schmitt came up with the idea to develop a DNA field kit for snow leopard identification, she gave up her promising career in whale research. Dr. Yingfu Li of McMaster University in Canada agreed to help, and Panthera gave Dr. Schmitt enough money to start the project. The journey has been hard, but Dr. Schmitt has made remarkable progress.

In a recent update on her website, Dr. Schmitt explained that her field kit might end up being far more sensitive than she had originally hoped. In fact, in might be able to detect DNA samples in water. In addition, she was recently able to travel to Nepal and partner with The Centre for Molecular Genetics. There she learned about the conditions snow leopard researchers have to deal with in the field, and about the challenges of coexisting with these legendary cats.

In fact, on February 15 Panthera released a video on Facebook about this trip. It contains footage from the remote Mustang region of Nepal, and great information about snow leopard conservation. Here is the video:

I strongly recommend you read Dr. Schmitt’s blog post on Panthera’s website. I have provided a brief teaser of what it entails, but the original article contains much more information. In addition, be sure to visit Dr. Schmitt’s website to support her work! Her project is largely funded by public donations, and she could definitely use our help to turn this field kit into reality.

Here is the Link to Donate to Dr. Schmitt’s Critical Work

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8 thoughts on “New Update and Video from Conservation Geneticist Dr. Natalie Schmitt

  1. I’ve grown up watching a lot of Attenborough’s documentaries on natgeo and it’s fascinating how beautiful nature is.
    Now I’m really curious about the snow leopard. It seems to be a captivating animal, I’ll definitely look more into it .

    The Antarctica does look beautiful but from what I have heard that place is beyond cold.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David Attenborough’s documentaries are great ways to get introduced to wildlife all over the world! I didn’t start watching them until relatively late in my life, but they’re exceptionally well made.

      Snow leopards are fascinating animals. I’ve written a lot about them on my blog, and here’s an introductory post with some basic facts about them: https://thejaguarandallies.com/2017/07/24/the-snow-leopard-ghost-cat-of-the-mountains/

      Antarctica is definitely beyond cold! You need to be very careful there, and humans can only survive there with the help of very warm clothing. Still though, I truly hope to go there one day. I’m rather fond of snow :)

      Liked by 1 person

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