A Word Of Support From Panthera:
By: Tom McCarthy, Ph. D. Executive Director – Snow Leopard Program
"Natalie’s research is of much value to the conservation of one of the world’s rarest and most enigmatic of wild cats – the snow leopard. As a poorly understood and little studied felid, conservation efforts for the endangered cat would benefit greatly from a stronger scientific underpinning than is now possible.
A denizen of Asia’s highest, most rugged and remote peaks, we now rely heavily on non-invasive techniques such as camera traps and fecal genetics to shed light on basic ecological questions including presence-absence, abundance, and population trends. All critical to the design of appropriate conservation measures.
In the case of fecal genetics, we have been hampered by misidentification of putative snow leopard feces in the wild. This has led to sample collections with more than 50% non-target species, which in turn leads to substantial funds wasted on laboratory analyses.
Natalie’s novel research aims to develop a fast and reliable way to identify snow leopard feces in the field, this limiting the time, effort, transport and lab costs wasted.
She has already made substantial strides toward development of the field ID kit, and we at Panthera have been pleased to provide support for this work through our own Snow Leopard Grants Program.
But our limited grants can only carry her work so far, and she desperately needs additional support.
As for Natalie herself, I can honestly say I have rarely worked with anyone so determined and so driven to succeed and provide a needed conservation tool. And she does so with humor and spirit, despite the fact she has, thus far, been substantially underfunded.
She has sought out partnerships in academia and in the field in snow leopard range countries, which have helped her make the positive strides she has, while stretching her existing funding. She is not one who will give up, and she has the skills and knowledge to meet her goals. And snow leopards will be better off for it."