Natalie’s research is of much value to the conservation of one of the world’s rarest and most enigmatic of wild cats – the snow leopard. We now rely heavily on non-invasive techniques such as camera traps and fecal genetics to shed light on basic ecological questions including presence-absence, abundance, and population trends. All critical to the design of appropriate conservation measures. In the case of fecal genetics, we have been hampered by misidentification of putative snow leopard feces in the wild. This has led to sample collections with more than 50% non-target species, which in turn leads to substantial funds wasted on laboratory analyses. Natalie’s novel research aims to develop a fast and reliable way to identify snow leopard feces in the field, this limiting the time, effort, transport and lab costs wasted. She has already made substantial strides toward development of the field ID kit, and we at Panthera have been pleased to provide support for this work through our own Snow Leopard Grants Program.
As for Natalie herself, I can honestly say I have rarely worked with anyone so determined and so driven to succeed and provide a needed conservation tool. And she does so with humor and spirit, despite the fact she has, thus far, been substantially underfunded. She has sought out partnerships in academia and in the field in snow leopard range countries, which have helped her make the positive strides she has, while stretching her existing funding. She is not one who will give up, and she has the skills and knowledge to meet her goals. And snow leopards will be better off for it.
Dr Tom McCarthy
from Panthera who is the Executive Director of the Snow Leopard program
Center for Molecular Dynamics, Kathmandu
Greetings from the Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal! We are very excited about the possibility of having a DNA based field test platform to do species identification of various biodiversity samples. This type of testing platform will help us tremendously with our endangered species research, particularly on elusive species like snow leopards and tigers. We would be very happy to work with you in testing and validating the platform you are developing on non-invasive samples, such as scat (feces) to help identify species of our study interest.
Executive Director / Chairman: Center for Molecular Dynamics in, Kathmandu, NEPAL
Australian Himalayan Foundation
We are proud to support this important initiative and the work of Dr. Natalie Schmitt. There may be as few as 3500 snow leopards remaining in the wild and many of these are found across the Himalaya. The AHF is working to protect this endangered species through partnerships with local communities but also through partnerships such as these. The work of Dr. Schmitt is critical to the survival of the snow leopard and we fully endorse this important research.
General Manager: Australian Himalayan Foundation
This is a very exciting concept. A portable, easy-to-use and affordable kit for rapid analysis of genetic samples in the field will be a true innovation. It will save time and money for monitoring of snow leopards and other wild cat species and it will provide real-time data in the fight against the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade.
Dr. Luke Hunter