The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub, Nairobi recently hosted American scientist recognised for the discovery of the Wilson’s bonneted bat.
For two weeks in April 2017, Molly McDonough who was part of a team credited with discovering a new bat species from the lowlands of western Ecuador and Peru, conducted research on African predators––the leopard and hyena––at the BecA-ILRI Hub. McDonough is a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex.
McDonough, who was accompanied by Maryanne Gitari, a Kenyan graduate student from the University of Nairobi, is investigating the effects of climate change in the Mount Kenya region on the predators’ ecosystem. Her research seeks to determine how the alteration of the unique ecosystem over the last decades is affecting the diet and prey base of the two carnivores.
The regulatory hurdles of transferring animal dropping DNA samples from Kenya to the Smithsonian in the US, as well as the challenge of preserving sample quality led to the search for an alternative research base.
‘The BecA-ILRI Hub is an oasis for sequencing in the middle of Africa,’ said McDonough, ‘the next generation sequencing facilities are excellent and all the scientists are helpful and approachable!’
On the potential of such collaborations between international research institutions, national institutions and the regional hub, McDonough cited the affordability and easy access to the facilities as critical to time-strapped studies like hers.
‘The 24-hour access to the facilities is very important when you have limited time to execute the experiment and collate data,’ said McDonough. ‘We definitely intend to come back!’
Article written by Eleni Vikeli, PhD researcher at the John Innes Centre (JIC), UK. Vikeli is at the BecA-ILRI Hub in Nairobi, Kenya as a communications assistant under the BecA-JIC alliance which supports capacity building, resource mobilization and technology transfer activities.