A month of small downs but with some very big ups!!!

Dear Friends,

Since my last update where we were successfully able to measure the sensitivity of our basic DNA detection test for snow leopards, I've hit a bit of a road block......which is soooo common for this type of research and can actually teach us a lot in the process! For DNA detection we're using a process known as Rolling Circle Amplification (RCA) where a short piece of DNA can be turned into a very long piece of DNA with the addition of a circular template and other DNA growing reagents.



To make this reaction even more sensitive to low quantities of DNA, we then add another short strand of DNA to the reaction which will bind to the very long strand of DNA we've produced to create lots of branches which should continue to grow exponentially......creating lots and lots of DNA! This is known as branched RCA (BRCA). However, after 2 weeks of trying, BRCA appears to be producing the same amount of DNA as RCA and not a great deal more as we would expect. So now begins the process of finding out why?? This process can be frustrating and time consuming but it can also teach us very valuable information that could prove very useful down the track :) 

The top bands show the long chain of DNA digested. The bands for BRCA are slightly darker than for RCA only......but they should be soooooooo much darker! :(

The top bands show the long chain of DNA digested. The bands for BRCA are slightly darker than for RCA only......but they should be soooooooo much darker! :(

In more positive news, the Professor and I have decided to try for some very big Canadian funding! We've managed to bring on board a Chemical Engineer, a top Conservation Scientist from Calgary who studies wolves and Caribou, and an industry representative who is keen to use the kit for environmental impact assessments. If we're successful....it will be huge! Not only will it just be me working on it......but a whole team of experts from lots of different fields! I've also been approached by researchers studying Orang Utans, Chimpanzees, Andean Cats, Iberian Lynxs and Dingos who are keen to collaborate.....so this could be bigger than Ben-Hur!!! To add icing to the cake.....I've been contacted by a production company in the US who are interested in promoting yours truly to Nat Geo, Discovery Channel, the BBC etc at a big event in Washington DC and are open to any ideas I might have on a documentary series. Hmmmm....I think taking this kit out into the field with all those cool species could be a great option! This would be a dream come true for me....combining my passion for science with my passion for filming.....but we'll see.

And........we're in the middle of planning the most awesome trek in Nepal in a few years time with a good friend of mine who has been running treks to some of the most remote areas in the region......and I'd love you to come with us. If you decide to come you'll not only have the opportunity to see snow leopard and other incredible wildlife, you'll get to assist me in testing our kit and help build corrals for some of the local villages to protect their precious livestock against carnivore attacks. 

The "Old Goat" Jamie McGuinness....our guide extraordinaire!

The "Old Goat" Jamie McGuinness....our guide extraordinaire!

I wish you all the joy and love over the holiday season and thank you so much for all your incredible support throughout 2017......without you none of this would have been possible.


Natalie Schmitt