Wednesday 14 June 2023

DPhil Awarded Grant by National Geographic Society

Chrishen Gomez, a 2nd year DPhil student in Biology and clouded leopard researcher has been awarded a prestigious Level I grant by the National Geographic Society (NGS) to support his work on genetic relations among clouded leopard populations.

The National Geographic Society was created as a global community of adventurers and explorers funded by the society for the creation and dissemination of scientific research about the planet.

Chrishen explains; ‘The clouded leopard is one of the least studied of the wild cats of Pantherine lineage, an important predator in some of world’s most pristine yet vulnerable ecosystems’. Chrishen’s research aims to shed light on the historical and contemporary genetic diversity of clouded leopards across their entire range in central to South Asia.

Asia research map

As a National Geographic Explorer, Chrishen joins a network of passionate scientists, musicians, writers, and filmmakers from ‘the likes of Jane Goodall and Jacques Cousteau who are all bound by a deep curiosity for the planet and its people.’ This prestigious affiliation provides him with direct access to National Geographic’s extensive media assets, enabling him to effectively communicate the grand challenges and critical conservation efforts surrounding clouded leopards.

A specialized live trap used to safely capture clouded leopards deep within the forest.
A specialized live trap used to safely capture clouded leopards deep within the forest.

When asked about his aspirations for future research, Chrishen emphasized the importance of raising awareness about the key threats faced by clouded leopards and the urgent need to design effective tools for their protection. His research topic is on ‘“how keystone species like clouded leopards will fare as we continue to convert the last refuge of habitats, and can we design tools to mitigate these harms.”

A careful sedation of a clouded leopard to deploy a satellite collar and collect blood samples for whole-genome sequencing.

Chrishen’s work has already reached significant milestones, including the sequencing of the first whole genome for the clouded leopard species. These groundbreaking discoveries provide new insights into the intricate interactions between populations, enhancing our understanding of these majestic creatures and their ecosystems.

Chrishen’s dedication to wildlife conservation serves as an inspiration to the entire academic community, and we look forward to witnessing his future contributions in the field, such as his recent venture in Ethiopia to monitor Ethiopian wolves.