Dibesh Karmacharya (Center for Molecular Dynamics, Nepal) | September 9, 2016 - 14h30 | CIBIO-InBIO’s Auditorium, Campus de Vairão




Much needs to be understood about endangered Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris) found in the lowland of Nepal. Its population size, genetic health, habitat and overall ecosystem dynamics is yet to be fully understood. Although there have been efforts to estimate tiger population numbers using camera trapping methods, the information obtained through such efforts has been limited and there is a need to find a better method and technology to understand wild tigers in Nepal. Use of genetic sampling holds significant promise in execution of landscape-level management plans as it may allow managers to measure genetic health and gene flow among localities with greater certainty. Habitat connectivity and the degree of movement from one habitat patch to another can be inferred through understanding of species behavior, but genetic data can contribute landscape level information by directly identifying patterns of distinctiveness, endemism and the levels of gene flow between subpopulations.
Non-invasive genetic studies on populations, such as those that use scat samples, have increased in recent years, and have been used to estimate population size of many elusive and endangered species. We have used this technique to understand tiger and its habitat. In our study, we have uncovered other sympatric wild species in the tiger habit which aids in understanding the species conservation from an ecological perspective. The overall landscape level of information on tigers on such important aspects like genetic health, sub-population structure and gene flow will help in designing broader conservation strategies for the species. The molecular forensic tool that we have developed has been helping the law enforcement officials in Nepal in the fight against wildlife poaching. And finally, we have mapped the inter-relationship between tiger and its gut microbiome. This study is the first of its kind done on wild tigers; and our results show a greater association between the species survival with its gut microbiota and habitat.


Dibesh Karmacharya has a conservation biology degree from Wayne State College (US). He worked on transgenic animal models as a Research Associate for Caliper Life sciences of Princeton, New Jersey (USA). He also promoted GE Healthcare’s Genomics and Proteomics platforms as consultant in New England (US) and Toronto (Canada). He is one of the founders of the Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal, a Kathmandu based Clinical epidemiology and wildlife genetics research center. He also heads Intrepid Nepal Private Limited, a biotechnology company based in Nepal that focuses on molecular diagnosis and Intrepid Cancer Diagnostics- an innovative tele-diagnostic laboratory. He served as Principal Investigator to several research projects such as Nepal Tiger Genome Project and Snow Leopard Genetics. He has published several papers on HIV/AIDS, conservation genetics and molecular diagnosis. He has extensive experience building modern laboratories in resource strapped countries like Nepal, and he now has his efforts focused on setting up stable-formulation animal vaccine production unit in Nepal. He is interested in identifying prevalent challenges and coming up with innovation solutions to address them using science and technology.


[Host: Paulo Célio Alves, Conservation Genetics and Wildlife Management]


Image credits: Dibesh Karmacharya