This is the conclusion 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 and READ PART 2 HERE
Today was another busy day. Based off the results from the checkerboards the previous day, the two techs and I refined the estrogen, androgen and glucocorticoid assays, and I also did some further refinement on the progesterone.
Morgan worked with the big group of trainees in the fecal lab on the extractions per modified protocol. Everything went well and the samples were left to evaporate over the weekend.
The assays are staring to form a solid picture. I was able to finalize the estrogen assay and made inroads to finalize the androgen, glucocorticoid and progesterone assays tomorrow. However, it appears all of this hard work will pay off in spades. One of my goals was to tailor the assays to the lab and how the hormones data will be used (research vs. estrus monitoring). Although they previously had hormone assays, the new protocols I was able to develop with their help will take finite reagents that may have only lasted 1 to 4 years, and extend that out to 8 to 30 years. This is profound, and will allow this lab to function without much additional use of the limited reagent supply for many years.
As the two techs and I toiled away in the hormone lab, Morgan had a busy day working with the other trainees finishing up the extractions and preparing them to analyze the samples on the newly minted estrogen assay.
Although we have had busy days previously, today was exceptionally busy. The two techs and I put the finishing touches on the glucocorticoid, progesterone, and androgen assays. Additionally, I was able to write the programs for the assays on the computer – a feat that was rather incredible given that it was all in Chinese and the techs had no experience using the software. Finally, I completed all protocols for the assays.
Morgan also had a busy day with the trainee group: they finished off the extractions, made dilutions, and used the newly minted estrogen assay to analyze the samples.
Last day. Today I went over everything in the lab with the two techs; every step of every assay, every calculation, and how to solve problems and troubleshoot. Additionally, I provided detailed instructions
on how to set up quality controls for each assay. Finally I reviewed the physiology of estrus and how that related to timed breeding and artificial insemination.
Morgan reviewed data analysis with the trainee group. Because the samples analyzed are extracts from feces, there are additional calculations to consider before assigning a hormone value to a given sample. Understanding this relationship is instrumental to proper interpretation of the hormone data. Additionally Morgan reviewed the various components of the assay to reinforce general concepts that I introduced at the very beginning of the course.
The trip was a great success. Establishing the new EIA lab in Dujiangyan and tailoring the assays to fit their needs will not only save precious limited reagent stocks, but will enhance their capacity to analyze hormones for many years to come. Additionally, the noninvasive training course that occurred in tandem with the lab set up provided participants with the foundational knowledge to begin projects studying the hormone activity of animals in the wild. It was a privilege to represent Pandas International and my University in cooperation with Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in this trip.