Summer School Final Project: Cryopreservation for Conservation

Hey you guys!

So I just finished my summer school recently. It was such a fun experience, too bad everything was online! But still fun!

Well, anyway we had to do a final project to pass the class. The final project was to create an imaginary NGO to increase biodiversity. So we had to create the strategy, what we wanted to do and how, the amount of money we needed, the business plan and so on. Then we had to pitch our ideas to (imaginary) philanthropists so they will fund our project. The philanthropists are our lecturers, of course 😀 So yea, I thought it’d be fun to share it on my blog!

I wont share the detail of our pitch but I just gonna share what we came up with and some literatures that supported our idea.

Well, here you go, our (imaginary) NGO:

Frozen for Future (F4F)

So basically, our idea was to combine in situ and ex situ conservation, which are protected area network and cryopreservation. So we wanna use the technology of cryopreservation to help the species reproduce and so they can restore their habitat/ecosystem as our long term goal. In other words, we want to reintroduce the species back to their habitat and hoping for a trophic cascade just like the wolves in Yellowstone National Park.

So, how does that work anyway? And what is cryopreservation in the first place?

Well, at first our idea was to save sperm and eggs of animals as our way to conserve the species. So, just like a sperm bank that we humans have, we wanted to create one for animals. But then, one of our teammates felt like it’s not nice if we only think about the animals, how about the other species? Of course they are important as well right? Then we found the name of the technology of saving the sperms/eggs/embryos etc which is cryopreservation. So basically we store the cells/tissues or other biological constructs (so it is not only for gametes and embryos; not only for animals! Can be used for bacteria, fungi, plants, insects, birds, fish etc) in a very low temperature.

Actually, while doing the research I stumbled upon so many interesting projects and researches. But, I am trying not too get distracted in this post or it will be a very long post hehe. So I will probably just gonna post them next time (you can find the articles etc in the reference list below).

Anyway, lets go back to cryopreservation.

So, apparently this technology is not new but still not that common. Maybe those who are studying natural science are more familiar with it but since I am a layman so I had no idea that we use this technology for conservation. So this technology has been used mainly for animals. At first, it is used commonly for livestock and big mammals. For example, there’s an NGO that used this method to help Rhino reproduce in South Africa.

Ah yea, I am going to focus my explanation on animals, mainly big mammals as the research that I did mainly focused on them.

So, we can get the biological construct from either dead or live animals. But of course, if it’s dead then we have the time constraints as you need to collect the samples as quickly as possible. After that, we could do ART or assisted reproductive technology such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization or embryo transfer. It is then up to the scientists/NGOs/etc whether they want to keep the animals first (captive breeding) or release them back to the wild while they are pregnant. The one that we chose for our imaginary NGO was to keep them in our facility so we can monitor if the ART works perfectly.

Then, before we release them to the wild, we still need to prepare the active site first and also check their health and do disease screening. We also wanted to put identification tag so we can monitor the succession of our project to release them back to the wild. Apparently the cost of rewilding is very expensive. There are a couple of sources in which I got my approximation of the cost of rewilding the animals and since I was trying to get funding from philanthropists, I just used the highest estimation that I could get. So I assumed that we are going to release big mammals back to the wild, lets say big cat like lion/leopard/cheetah (they all have different estimation by the way). Then I assumed that we are going to release 20 individuals. So, I will need around 3 million euros to release 20 individuals for one year period (including intensive monitoring of the species, mobilization, staff salary etc). Of course this estimation is a very simple estimation that I did in less than one day hahaha because there is actually a way to estimate the cost but I just didn’t have enough time to do proper research. But, if I see news and literatures about rewilding, this project is indeed expensive.

So yeah, that’s just a little bit about our final project for the summer school. It was a fun project but I would say it was a very intense one because we only had 3 days to work on it. Still though, I am pretty pleased that our group got a high mark for this project (20/25) woooo!

As always, please find the sources for our project below. Unfortunately, I dont really note what my friends used for their research but mostly it has been covered by the sources I listed in the file. I also put some interesting articles that I found online. Have fun reading! Lemme know what you think!

Cheers,

Kemmy

Source

(This project was done while studying the M.Sc. “Environmental Management” at Christian-Albrechts Universität (CAU) in Kiel, Germany)

Conservation: Species interactions and biodiversity

Sumatran Tiger – a critically endangered species (Photo by Rebecca Campbell on Unsplash)

Hey you guys!

Right now I’m participating in a summer school held by University of Gothenburg. Everything is held online and I am participating in their “Biodiversity in Western Sweden” program. It’s my second week now and I learn a lot (and have so much fun, of course!). I just wanna share a little bit of what I learned in the class because I find it very interesting. It is about how the species itself contribute to the biodiversity.

Disclaimer: I am a layman in this topic so please dont refer to my post as your sole source of information. This is solely information and take away that I get from my class. Please do your own research as well 🙂

Okay so first of all, when you think of conservation, what is the first word that came up in your mind?

So during our second discussion session, the lecturers asked us that. Well, as you can see the picture that I used, Sumatran Tiger is the first thing that came up in my mind. Why? Simple. I like cats (big cats are included of course) and I donated for Sumatran Tiger conservation before. Mostly, when we talked about conservation what we have in mind is big mammals or endangered species or those that often appear in the media such as panda, elephants and orang utan.

But have you ever thought about the so-called common species?

For our discussion, we had to read this paper: A case for conserving common species (Frimpong, 2018). This paper elaborate how we overlook common species and interaction between this common species and other species. An example from Frimpong (2018) is the nest construction of bluehead chub, Nocomis leptocephalus. Apparently, the nesting activity done by this species attracts and benefits other species such as rosyside dace (Clinostomus funduloides), blacknose dace (Rhinichthys atratulus), rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris) and so on. However, according to Frimpong (2018), the aquatic strategy in freshwater realm on understanding the importance of positive interdependence among species is not widely known. In addition, conservation of mutualism has become vital as many rare species rely on positive interaction with common species.

There is also lectures and other discussions that we had regarding how birds and big mammals distribute seeds in the region, which I find really fascinating. For example, bigger birds able to bring bigger seeds compared to smaller birds so they can shift vegetation composition in their region. The same case also applied to big mammals. An example from Macdonald et al. (2013) is Rhinos’ feeding behaviour that shift vegetation composition and structure. The fruit removal and seed dispersal by greater one-horned rhinoceros could shift tall grasslands to riverine forest by manuring the seeds of the shade-intolerant common tree Trewia nudiflora into grassland latrines. These latrines become outposts of woody vegetation in a sea of elephant grass. And without the annual mortality of Trewia seedlings by monsoon floods and annual-unpredictable fires, rhino mediated seed dispersal could lead to the succession from grassland to woodland and forest within decades.

Another interesting species interactions that we learned is the re-introduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, USA. By influencing the distribution and behaviour of herbivores (the risk of predation influences the spatial distribution and habitat selection also their vigilance), the wolves change the ecosystem in the national park. So, previously they were gone from the park for around 70 years. Because there’s nothing to hunt the deers, their population piled up and they reduced the amount of vegetation in the park. Because of the wolves, the deers’ behaviour changed ie, avoiding certain parts of the park. Then, the areas that they avoided regenerate, means the park had more vegetation. This attracts other species such as birds and beavers. The beavers then built dams, which provided habitat for other species such as otters, reptiles, ducks. Interestingly, the wolves also changed the river due to the regenerating forest and vegetation.

I used to think conservation and biodiversity are basically endangered species, big-overly discussed in media kind of species and species richness. I wont lie, I mostly focus only on animals and never really think about plants and fungi (until this class!). Apparently there are so much more than that! What’s really interesting and often forgettable is that:

all species is equally important.

The ones that we overlook could have a big contribution in saving other species which are threatened or maybe they could also be actually in danger. From this class, I learn that we have so many things to do and how complex the situation is.

Soooo I know that many of you are more expert in this area (well, I am a layman in this topic hehe) and I would love to discuss about it more with you if you like 🙂 So anyway, feel free to connect with me!

Cheers,

Kemmy

Sources of materials that I used in this post can be found on the post itself (you can find and click the link right in the post).

(This post was written during Summer School of Sustainability at University of Gothenburg, Sweden. The summer school was taken while studying the M.Sc. “Environmental Management” at Christian-Albrechts Universität (CAU) in Kiel, Germany)