Next-generation technologies applied to age-old challenges in Madagascar

Marina B. Blanco, Lydia K. Greene, Fidisoa Rasambainarivo, Elizabeth Toomey, Rachel C. Williams, Lanto Andrianandrasana, Peter A. Larsen, Anne D. Yoder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot that is facing rapid rates of deforestation, habitat destruction, and poverty. Urgent action is required to document the status of biodiversity to facilitate efficacious conservation plans. With the recent advent of portable and affordable genetic technologies, it is now possible to take genomic approaches out of the lab and into the field. Mobile genetics labs can produce scientifically reproducible data under field conditions, dramatically minimizing the time between sample collection and data analysis. Here, we show “proof of concept” by deploying miniPCR bio’s miniaturized thermal cycler alongside Oxford Nanopore’s MinION DNA sequencer in Madagascar. Specifically, we deployed this technology at Anjajavy, northwestern Madagascar for rapid biodiversity assessment. We successfully extracted mouse lemur DNA, amplified and sequenced a phylogenetically informative mitochondrial gene (cytochrome-b; cytb), and thereby confirmed the presence of Danfoss’ mouse lemur (M. danfossi) within the Anjajavy Reserve. We show that a mobile genetics lab can provide expeditious results, and allow scientists to conduct genetic analyses, potentially allowing for rapid interventions under emergency conditions in situ. Additionally, mobile labs offer powerful training opportunities for in-country scientists for whom training opportunities were previously confined to ex-situ locations. By bringing genomic technologies to Madagascar and other economically challenged and biodiverse regions of the world, the next generation of scientists and conservationists can more fully implement their leadership roles. Local laboratory and training facilities are changing the polarity of research programs in Madagascar and empowering national researchers to take charge of environmental stewardship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-793
Number of pages9
JournalConservation Genetics
Volume21
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this project was provided by Global Wildlife Conservation’s Lemur Conservation Action Fund and IUCN SOS. Funding for LKG was provided by an NSF DDRIG BCS 1749898. Additional travel and supplies were supported by funds from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation to ADY. Acknowledgements

Funding Information:
We thank the Malagasy Government for authorizing our research in Madagascar. We thank A. Raselimanana for his help advertising the workshop at Vahatra office, Antananarivo. We also thank S. Goodman for allowing us to use the Vahatra office for the workshop. Equipment and supplies for the mobile lab were made possible by a private donation to PAL and the Duke Lemur Center from W. Korman and Google Inc. We thank S. Bornbusch, R. Schopler and K. Thompson for acquiring and transporting supplies to Madagascar. We are also grateful to C. de Foucault, E. Rambeloson, H. Rasoanaivo and Anjajavy staff members for their assistance in the field. We are grateful to G. Tiley for his assistance with the phylogenetic analysis. This is a DLC publication # 1464.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).

Keywords

  • Anjajavy
  • Field genomics
  • MinION
  • Mouse lemurs
  • Nanopore sequencer
  • miniPCR

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