May 29 – June 1, 2017: Chengdu Base
Prior to this trip the Chengdu staff asked for my input on a study they wanted to conduct to investigate the hormonal factors associated with breeding and parenthood. Via email we developed a plan and arranged for me to validate the hormone analyses while I was in China. Over the course of several days I would design the validation steps and analyze the results at the Chengdu Base, and Jessica worked with the staff in the lab to carry out the wet lab procedures. Although we were only able to complete about 95% of the validation procedures ourselves, we left in place very simple procedures to complete the validation the day after we left. Additionally, Jessica developed protocols for the study tailored to the equipment and supplies of the Chengdu Base laboratory.
Because Jessica handled the lab procedures of the study validation described above, I was able to spend one-on-one time with the Chengdu Base endocrinologist about the theory and practices behind validation. Additionally, we were able to review the application of the knowledge throughout the week as results came in from the validation procedures Jessica was carrying out. As a result of this integrated effort the Chengdu Base staff were able to grasp the knowledge and skills involved in validation.
Finally, the long-standing contributions I have made to the hormone lab at the Chengdu Base prompted discussions of future studies we could conduct on the giant panda, with relation to reproduction and well-being.
Conclusion of the Chengdu Base portion of the trip: The ability to work with staff on theory while Jessica was able to follow through with laboratory work is ideal for intensive training in hormone monitoring techniques. Although I have provided training to the staff in years past, there are many aspects of this methodology that are still evolving and even I have to take time out of my own research to learn new techniques and methodologies. However, I think the training at the Chengdu Base was fruitful and the collaborations set up from this trip will bear fruit for years to come.
This was another successful trip. It is an honor to work at these esteemed facilities and study such a wonderful animal such as the giant panda. Hormone analysis is merely a cog in the wheel of giant panda conservation, but is integral to gain invaluable insight about reproduction and well-being of the species. The continued work of the respective DJY and Chengdu Base labs will help ensure the persistence of this iconic species. Finally, I want to extend my gratitude to the host facilities, Pandas International, my university, and Dr. Coote for generously donating her time and making this trip a success.