Research - Genetics Lab
We now have a fully functioning state of the art genetics laboratory at the Cheetah Conservation Fund here in Namibia! It was quite a saga to get everything to this stage, but thanks to Dr. Laurie Marker’s vision and quite a bit of hard work we have been up and running since 2009. Of course such an endeavor is impossible without help, and there are numerous people who contributed to this success: I would like to send a very special thank you to Dr. Mike Helms who has been very supportive and helpful in moving things forward for us in the US, along with Dr. Bruce Brewer who made things happen on site in Namibia. I also had a lot of advice and support from Dr. Stephen O’Brien’s laboratory where I did my PhD.
The laboratory itself was made possible thanks to the generous donation of PCR machines, a Sequence Analyzer, and an initial batch of reagents from Applied Biosystems (now Life Technologies) at the time of the setup and a new laser in 2012. In order to thank Applied Biosystems/Life Technologies for their generous support the official name of the laboratory is: Life Technologies Conservation Genetics Laboratory. The addition of the state of the art non-invasive laboratory for our international scat samples in 2009 was supported by the Ohrstrom Foundation. We have had the chance to be able to use a great genetic analysis software called “geneious” since 2010, for which licenses were generously donated by the company who created it (Biomatters). Additional donations from private individuals and the surplus department of the National Institutes of Health provided valuable equipment such as a UV work station, centrifuges, pipettemen, electrophoresis systems and a camera system for the visualization of DNA, spectrophotometer, scales, glassware, and other lab ware. We want to thank everybody for their support.
Regarding the genetic markers, 20 genetic microsatellite markers were selected based on previous work done at Dr. Stephen O’Brien’s laboratory. They were redesigned in order to be adapted to genetic work with degraded cheetah DNA. The markers allow to identify individuals from scat samples and to test for relatedness as well as population structure. The data collected during years of research on cheetahs performed at CCF will provide the framework for the genetic work.
One of the major motivating factors in having a laboratory in Namibia is to be able to process samples locally instead of having to send African samples to the US and Europe. This has several advantages including decreasing the dependence of Namibia from other countries and allowing Namibian students to be exposed to genetic research and conservation at CCF, at the same time avoiding the complications of sample export. Since 2009 we have trained 1-2 Namibian graduates a year in the laboratory.
We always welcome visiting scientists with collaborative projects. We also accept long term genetic laboratory interns who have previous genetics experience via our volunteer program. If you are interested in genetic work performed at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, please feel free to contact me. At the CCF genetics lab you will be involved in sample collection, inventorying and processing of tissue samples as well as non-invasive samples, DNA extractions and amplification, as well as data analysis. Which work will be done at the time of your visit will depend on the status of the project(s), your experience, and the funding available for any given project.
If you are interested in contributing to our laboratory (a lot of our equipment is second hand and prone to break), you may donate here, check out our whish list or contact me directly, any help is welcome!
For myself, I can only say that this is an exciting time to be part of the Cheetah Conservation Fund and that I can’t wait to see the laboratory grow!
Anne Schmidt-Küntzel, DMV, PhD
Geneticist; Asst Dir for Animal Health and Research
Life Technologies Conservation Genetics Laboratory
Cheetah Conservation Fund
FOR A LISTING OF PROJECTS CURRENTLY UNDERWAY IN OUR GENETICS LAB, CLICK HERE