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Genomics in the Jungle: India

Educational Organization:
Field Projects International

Date Posted:

Program Description:

Biological research is turning to genetic research methods for a more in-depth look into the factors that encode behavior and physiology. Today, we use genetic techniques to determine species delimitations, define populations, understand mating systems, explain behavioral differences in foraging efficiency, screen for diseases, conduct paternity studies, evaluate immune status and functioning, and explore microbiome diversity. And these are just a few examples of the full breadth of the field as applied to wildlife biology.

In this course, we will utilize a portable field molecular biology laboratory in the rainforests of the Western Ghats of Kerala, India. We will examine how to conduct field research, collect samples, and extract, amplify, and sequence them. Finally, we will interpret genetic data to answer several practical research questions featured in the following case studies on wildlife ecology and natural history: wildlife forensics, eDNA screening, biodiversity screening via micro-predator blood meals.

This course will take place at forest hill station by the name of Fringe Ford, a location with no dedicated laboratory infrastructure. That is right; participants will be working with a FULLY MOBILE molecular laboratory. This course will focus on training next-generation biologists, ecologists, and conservationists. Participants will acquire the practical know-how to employ genetic research tools in the field and obtain answers in real-time.

In this course, we will focus on three specific cases in which cutting-edge genomics can help us solve mysteries common to wildlife research in the field. The ultimate goal of all of these projects will be to use a MinION, a USB-sized powerful sequencer that is revolutionizing how we do genomics in some of the craziest places on the planet.

The MinION has been used to:

*do whole-genome sequencing to identify species with PCRs in under 40 minutes and whole genome amplification in under 100 minutes
*conduct real-time DNA sequencing in a remote rainforest by a course instructor
*sequence DNA offline in the Antarctic and even on the International Space Station in outerspace!

We will focus on areas in which cutting-edge molecular techniques can help us solve mysteries common to wildlife research and conservation efforts across the planet. We will work from only opportunistically collected noninvasive or unprotected invertebrate samples to assist in building a reference DNA library for this site.

Class size and time permitting, the three case studies we hope to complete are:

--Wildlife forensics: from noninvasive, opportunistic sampling of wildlife at Fringe Ford
--Diversity assessments through eDNA
--Biodiversity monitoring via micro-predator blood meals


The goals of this course are to give participants advanced training in field techniques important to the collection of biological samples from wildlife, their prey, and their parasites, all the way to sequencing DNA from these sources. The course has the following objectives:

*To engage in both independent and team-based data collection

*To teach sample collection techniques from invertebrates to megafauna

*To learn sample storage and clean-lab protocols tailored for fieldwork

*To extract DNA in a portable field laboratory

*To test DNA quality and quantify it

*To run basic PCRs for a range of markers using multiple protocols (smaller, lighter, lower-scale and more rugged than typical lab-based instruments)

*To explore metagenomics in the field using case studies

*To involve all participants in the publication of all data collected on the field course.

Entrance Qualifications:
There are a few simple requirements to determine eligibility for this course:

*You must be at least 18 years of age at the time of the course.

*You must have medical insurance, and provide proof of such insurance to us to complete your reservation.

*We have no citizenship requirements.

*Anyone is welcome to apply. You must obtain visas to Peru independently if necessary.

*You do not need any training in biology; our course is structured to accommodate people from a variety of backgrounds.

*Courses have a maximum capacity of 12 participants. If you are concerned that you will lose your spot, please contact us to confirm how many spots we have left.

Tuition / Fees:
The fee for this course for non-Indian citizens is $3200 and must be paid in full 6 weeks after online registration or Nov 1, 2018, whichever is EARLIER. Indian citizens are entitled to take the course for a reduced fee of $1250, but space at this rate is limited to 3 students and will be provided on a first-come-first-serve basis.

The fee includes the following:

*Food and lodging for the entire course.
*Transportation to and from Bangalore to the field site.
*Experienced instructors and field equipment.
*Access to the field laboratory and ingredients to complete all projects

This course fee does NOT include:

*International travel to India.
*Local airfare to Bangalore
*Travel or health insurance (proof of health insurance is required for course attendance).
*Rubber boots, binoculars, flashlight and insect repellent (all of which are required to take this course).

Support (scholarships, travel):
There are two ways to obtain financial assistance for attending this field course. You may participate in both of these programs simultaneously as follows:

Scholarships: This year, we are offering one scholarship to participate in this class targeting an Indian citizen. For the application details, please visit our scholarships page.

Fundraising: FPI can now provide a peer-to-peer crowdfunding platform for all field course students. You will be able to make your fundraising page to share with your contacts and social networks. At the end of the fundraising period of 6 weeks from when you register, FPI will issue a discount code to you for 100% of the funds that you have raised. You would then enter this code as you make your final course payment. If you raise enough to cover all (or part) of your initial reservation fee, you would be refunded that portion as well. Please note that funds raised in excess of your program fees will be rolled into our scholarship fund. Also, if you withdraw from the course at any time, your donors cannot get a refund. In this case, all of those funds would also roll over into our scholarship fund for other students. To set up this option, please register for a course, first, and then contact us at to set up your fundraising page.

Start + End Dates:
Dec 29, 2018 - Jan 11, 2019

Application Deadline:
November 1, 2018

Contact Information:
Mrinalini Watsa


E-Mail Address:

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