It’s been a while since I’ve updated and now things are finally happening! I have been awarded a Fulbright grant to conduct my field research on Sumatran tiger habitat and genetic connectivity. Thanks to other funders as well, such as IdeaWild and the Philadelphia Zoo, I can finally begin my preparations for my mid-October departure to TigerLand aka Indonesia!
In these last few weeks before leaving, I am learning how to extract DNA from scat (poop), how to make hundreds of thousands of copies of the DNA and how to interpret and read the genetic markers that emerge from this process. In short, I’ve been spending lots of time in windowless labs pipetting very small volumes of liquids and then starring at lines on a computer screen. As boring as this may seem, it is really amazing what we can do with poop! From this process we can identify individual tigers, determine how many tigers there are in a population and figure out who is breeding or not breeding with who. A pretty cool and handy tool to study tigers without having to harm them!
After I’ve crammed all this genetics information in my head (many thanks go out to a very dedicated an knowledgeable lab at the University of Idaho who have had the patience to work closely with me to make sure I’m doing everything correctly) begins the crazy packing and personal preparations process. What goes in to a year long out of country trip preparation, you may ask? Arranging medications for the year, getting rabies shots, packing all of my personal items in my house away under layers of tarp in my attic, selling a car, making sure my cat-loves will be taken care of and spending as much time with family and friends as possible.
Yes, I am scared and nervous and excited and worried and in disbelief. I am confident I can carry out the project – I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about missing all of you…a requirement of Fulbright is that I cannot leave Indonesia once I get there, save for a two week trip back to the States with permission. It will be an awesome adventure, but I will need your support. The food will be different, the temperatures will be near unbearable, the internet will be iffy, the tiger poop will be few and far between. Please if you feel inclined, use this page or my Facebook page to leave me words of encouragement and support. There will be times where I don’t need it so much, but there will probably be more times where I really, really need it. I love my work, but sometimes it’s hard to keep the broader picture in mind. If you feel inclined to give me paper words of encouragement (!) that I can take with my to my field sites, I would love it. Message me and I’ll give you my address. I would love to have a binder full of encouraging words to look at as I am hopefully covered in tiger poop.
Stay tuned as the adventure draws near…