Dr. David Kersey’s China Journal | Part 2 of 3

This is Part 2 of Dr. David Kersey’s Journal kept while setting up  an endocrine lab at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda Dujiangyan Base.  If you haven’t had a change, READ PART 1 HERE


Today I spent several hours delivering a lecture about the theories and practices behind noninvasive hormone measurement and operating hormone assays. Although there was a little bit of a language barrier, the material was well received and several of the trainees said it was very helpful to understand why certain procedures are done and how important it is to follow protocols for each procedure.

Because the lab set up had gone so smoothly I was ahead of schedule and elected to give the trainees the afternoon off. This also gave Morgan and me an opportunity to explore the Base. Although not very big, it is a well done with exhibits that allow close viewing of giant pandas. I was particularly pleased to see Tai Shan. When I was at the Smithsonian, I worked with colleagues on the AI of Mei Xiang at the National Zoo. Several months later she gave birth to Tai Shan. He was the first cub born from AI by the Smithsonian team, a great achievement. We have since gone on to use that same approach many times with success at National Zoo and Zoo Atlanta. Seeing Tai Shan lounge about here in Dujiangyan was very satisfying. The Base is a great facility to see giant pandas close up without crowds.



Morgan I spent the weekend sightseeing around Dujiangyan. The Hotel, as mentioned previously, is within walking distance of an old town area that is very well done. Additionally, the old town area is adjacent to a mountain that has many beautiful temples. I can see this part of the city and the Base as a worthwhile reason to visit Dujiangyan, especially if already visiting Chengdu.


Today is the start of what will be a very busy week. I will need to work with the two lab technicians on setting up the hormone assays, while Morgan will work with the other trainees on extraction.

This morning we divided duties. Morgan worked with most of the group on processing the samples that were placed in the freeze drier last week. Although she was able to get a lot done with then, activities were halted due to some missing supplies. Until these supplies arrive the extraction of the hormones from the feces cannot continue.

While Morgan was in the fecal lab, I was in the hormone lab training the two lab techs on a very complicated procedure called a checkerboard titration. I was encouraged with how quickly they picked up on some of the concepts behind this procedure

In the afternoon, Morgan worked on transferring my protocols to step-by-step instructions with pictures. These new protocols will be translated and posted in the labs at each work station. This will be instrumental in allowing people with little training to successfully conduct these procedures.

I spent the afternoon with the two lab techs doing some additional training on checkerboard titrations, setting up assays to perform these tests, and doing the calculations for the titrations.



Today we continued with the checkerboard titrations, however we could not progress that far as some of the supplies we needed to continue were en route. I spent most of the day going over calculations and equations used in hormone assays with the lab techs. Although seemingly simple, these calculations are fairly complex and there are many to understand.

Meanwhile, Morgan continued to work on protocols.


Today went much better than yesterday. Some of the supplies that we needed arrived today and we were able to get the checkerboard done on the progesterone assay. The progesterone yielded great results and it was a relief to see that the reagents were working as they should. Morgan was able to set up the creatinine assay, an instrumental test in assessing hormones in the urine.


Today was very busy. The two techs and I did three checkerboard titrations (estrogen; androgen; glucocorticoid) and I did some refinement of the progesterone assay based off the results from the checkerboard run yesterday. All results were promising and we made tremendous headway in setting up these assays.

We had a little difficulty getting the fecal analyses up and running due to some complications with the equipment. However, after adjusting the protocols I think we found a work around. Morgan tweaked the protocol accordingly and began working with the other trainees on weighing out the fecal samples.