It will take only 15 minutes for me to get to these nuggets (born May 22nd) being introduced to the public today!
I, personally, don't get to do any snow leopard work but OHDZA is a dedicated member of the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program that works to maintain a genetically stable assurance population of Snow leopards in zoos. Our neighbors in the CCR in nutrition and reproductive physiology do research on these floofs to improve care and management around the world.
I have moved on from being a graduate student. Although I don't graduate until December, I have started a new position as a post doctoral scientist of conservation genetics at the Center for Conservation Research (CCR) at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium (OHDZA)! I will be working mostly on projects on lemurs and other species from Madagascar, throwing in the occasional elephant and big cat project to keep myself associated with main land Africa. I'm still settling in but it won't be too difficult a transition when I can see orangutans out the lab window and I get to take a daily safari walk to see all my favorite animals.
Being so close to the action I'll hopefully be able to get the inside scoop (like I did with the Indian rhino. The repro team showed us the birth video only hours after it happened!) and you know I'll be making regular visits to their enclosure to bask in the tail poof glory. I'd have to pass by sloth bears and tigers on the way there too. Darn.
For the second year in a row, I am a recipient of the Dan L. Duncan Scholarship presented by the Houston Safari Club and the American Conservation and Education Society. This year, 24 students with a desire to protect and promote hunting and the principles of conservation were given the award in front of Houston Safari Club members at their September monthly meeting. Gary Rose (far right) did a remarkable job introducing us all, bragging about all our various accomplishments like a proud parent.
This was my last year of eligibility for the award but so far during my tenure as a recipient, I've met many interesting people and have learned a lot about the industry. Thank you to Houston Safari Club for supporting me and my goals of African lion research and conservation!
Other news on the funding front, my project received 2 grants from Dallas Safari Club! An anonymous donor through the organization is paying for the Freezer/Mill I need to process all my bone samples and I received their general grant, highlighted on the grants page of their website with a photo of a lion!
Coupled with the money you all graciously donated through the Experiment.com Cat Challenge crowdfunding campaign (for which I came in 2nd), my project has enough funding to get me through the year!!!
My dissertation project has gotten some great news this week. Today we received 30 lion specimens from the Field Museum of Natural History!
The Challenge is 2-fold:
The project with the most BACKERS will receive an extra $1,000 added to their GOAL.
Our GOAL is $5,000 and we must receive 100% of our GOAL to get any of the money donated by the BACKERS.
Go to Experiment.com/liondiversity and show some support by making a donation. Any little bit helps! The more people who make donations the better. You can also help by spreading the word.
The Challenge (# of BACKERS) runs from today to Friday, June 10 @ 6PM ET
The Campaign (100% of GOAL) runs from today to Saturday, June 18
Your support is much appreciated! THANKS!!!
This month’s College of Veterinary Medicine Graduate Student Association Meeting had a very interesting guest speaker. Dr. Henry Musoma of the Mays Business School spoke to us about the Journey from Pathetic to Prophetic and, basically, how to be a good person, particularly in academic research. His speech took up almost the entire meeting time and was incredibly entertaining and meaningful.
Without rehashing his entire speech, he made some good points that I wanted to share:
He ended his speech by saying, “Don’t be impressed by me, be inspired by me.” I think the humility in this statement speaks wonders.
One step at a time I am adapting to all these changes and doing my best not to lose it (I've had a few close calls). So, what I hope will come from this shift in view of the lab while doing my work, will be a shift in successes toward my dissertation so as not to be for nothing.
The manuscript I have been working so hard on for most of the year has finally been published!
My first publication, Mitochondrial Haplotype Diversity in Zambian Lions: Bridging a Gap in the Biogeography of an Iconic Species, was made live today, December 16th, 2015! I am now officially a published author!
The paper is about matrelineal gene flow and genetic diversity of lions in Zambia. We found that lions in Zambia have a high level of diversity but can be separated into two sub-populations with little to no matrelineal gene flow between the two. The separation could be historical but it more likely due to an expanse of cities and roads that inhibit modern day dispersal because, when put in context with the entire range of the African lion, Zambia acts as a bridge connecting Southern and Eastern lion populations. This is all based on analysis of mitochondrial genes and the discovery of 5 sets of DNA variations (haplotypes) thus far not seen anywhere else in Africa.
Here's my official citation:
Curry CJ, White PA, Derr JN (2015) Mitochondrial Haplotype Diversity in Zambian Lions: Bridging a Gap in the Biogeography of an Iconic Species. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0143827. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143827
I am currently working on a press release for this paper and I have already started writing my next publication, hopefully with two others soon to follow after that. My goal is that by the time I finish my PhD I will have at least 5 publications. Let the fun begin!
Big news! This morning I got the long awaited email that my first manuscript made it through another step of the publication process: Review. This journal is known for its quick turn-around time so we actually got a formal apology for how long it took (although it was a blessing in disguise that reviewer #3 held onto it until after my prelims were over. I should bake them a cake.) So, now I have 45 days to really hit the grindstone and channel my inner Carl Sagan (scientist and Pulitzer Prize winner) because not only do I have to make the "major revisions" to my manuscript to ensure it's publication but I also have to finish writing and submit my dissertation proposal as well as complete another $50,000 grant proposal all due by the end of October.
Who'da thunk this kid would some day be a PhD candidate... #tbtt
oh, by the way, I passed by prelims!!!!
Throwback to two weeks ago when I was in New York City at the American Museum of Natural History Department of Mammology delving through cabinet after cabinet and shelf after shelf of animals bones diggings for ancient DNA treasures!
Bone, tissue and hide from these animals will be used in the historic portion of my research which will be comparing modern lions to lions that existed prior to extensive management and translocation efforts of the last 100 years. Dr. Derr and I had our hands on lions as old as 1886 (and possibly older because some of them didn't have documented dates).
Lions went extinct in Rwanda 15 years ago after the 1994 genocide when the Akagera National Park went unmanaged and cattle herders poisoned many of the animal species. And this week, in a big conservation effort, seven lions, 5 females and 2 males, are being relocated from the South African province of KwaZulu Natal to repopulate Rwanda with lions. They are starting their journey from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to Rwanda today!
7/1/2015 - While doing a bit more research combing through article after article reading the same shpeal over and over I finally found something that somewhat confirmed my suspicion but with no real concrete evidence... there is political mumbo jumbo afoot....
The Christian Science Monitor (um, the what?) says that Kenya offered to donate eight lions to Rwanda last year but Kenya's wildlife conservation groups fiercely opposed the plan saying "Rwanda had not sufficiently addressed issues that resulted to the loss of its own lion population."
Scientists measure their impact on the scientific community by their number of publications and how many times those publications have been cited within other publications. To an academic, publications are kind of like a form of notoriety based currency. But it's not just about how many publications you have, the quality and impact factor of the journal it's published in is important as well. Basically, someone who has 3 publications in Nature, Cell and Science (impact factor > 30) is better off than someone who has 20 publications in Animal Biology (impact factor of 0.614). Not only will an article in Nature, Cell or Science get read, and likely cited, by a wider academic audience but publications in those journals are also more likely to be picked up by the media (which could be a good thing or a bad thing...). Journals with an impact factor over 5 can still have a lot of impact, just maybe not expanding into the general public like 20+ journals would. But, in the blossoming age of open-access, its getting a lot easier for anyone, not just academics, to get their hands on scientific literature (which, again, could be a good thing or a bad thing... and could change what we deem as "impact").
Getting published is also a time consuming process. Peer-reviewed journals are considered better than non but can take months for a manuscript to get through the review process. A journal with a quicker turn-around may not have as high of an impact factor, possibly due to more lax or no review process, but could get your results out to the world faster, leading to people citing you sooner. Meaning, for the right study, the benefits from publishing in a mid-tier journal with a quicker turn-around could outweigh the benefits of publishing in a top-tier journal. So, when publishing, a scientist has to weigh the pros and cons of quantity, quality and timing.
This month's Throwback Third Thursday (#tbtt) is a day late (so I guess its actually a Flashback Friday) and only looks back one day but for good reason: I didn't have time! The past few days I have been busy with the Genetics Graduate Student Association (GGSA) Spring Symposium featuring keynote speakers Dr. Bruce Budowle and Dr. Jeffrey Bennetzen. As Vice-President of GGSA, I was in charge of planning the event and it went GREAT! Our only criticism was there wasn't enough time for poster judging (but that was more of a venue availability problem than anything else). And what I am most grateful for, there was a good number of people who were incredibly helpful with set up and clean up. Amazing!
2015 is turning out to be a pretty good year! I just got back from a long day at the College of Veterinary Medicine Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Symposium where I presented a poster on my preliminary results of the diversity and distribution of lions in Zambia and was the winner (that’s 1st place) for the graduate student poster presentations!!!!
As a graduate student, there will be times when you feel like a fraud. In an interdisciplinary program and a member of the college of veterinary medicine I am often surrounded by microbiologists, biochemists and veterinarians who’s use of medical jargon and super cellular hoopla puts my macro-brain into a tailspin. Today was such a day. I read many posters and listened to even more talks which exceeded my veterinary knowledge. So, I didn't think I was in the running to win an award. But, rather than let it get the best of me, I stayed for the entire symposium, listened and tried to broaden my scope.
I was literally shocked when I won and I feel incredibly honored. What I forget is how different my field, conservation genetics, is than medical based science. To others, my poster may have been just as confusing as fibroblastomas and hepatic lipidosis is to me. I was never really sure how my work compared and I sometimes worried my work wouldn't come across as being as impressive as others. This win was the confidence booster I needed to help me along and I am now SO ready to keep this streak going! Next… Big funding.
Tomorrow I am attending the International Plant and Animal Genome Conference XXIII (fondly referred to as PAG by those attending). And it's not only exciting because it's my first big conference and I will be there with a bunch of wonderful people from the Genetics program at Texas A&M but it is in San Diego and I am presenting my first graduate level poster! People are going to get their first official look at my research then I get to go home to mom and dad when I'm done. It's like the 1997 Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair all over again but instead of "The Color Attraction of Mice" I will be presenting on African lions in "Genetics and Genomics: Powerful Tools for Wildlife Conservation" (Oh how times have changed). It's a brand new year and I am starting it off with a bang. This poster represents the next big stage of my graduate career and the beginning of what I know is going to be a successful year. I am finished with my classes so now I can really focus on my research, prelims and making sure I don't get sick while doing it. I can't wait!
I am a biologist and my life is crap!