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Mimi Arandjelovic, Ph.D.
Post Doctoral Research Fellow
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Primatology
Deutscher Platz 6
04103,  Leipzig
Germany

arandjel @ eva.mpg.de


Personal Statement
Precise and accurate methods of monitoring endangered and threatened species, including great apes, are often difficult to develop, as these animals tend to live in low visibility environments, are cryptic and/or are sparsely distributed . Bushmeat hunting, habitat destruction from agricultural and industrial development (logging, mining and oil extraction), disease epidemics, and civil unrest have all caused documented declines in great ape numbers and genetic diversity. Yet, the extent and magnitude of the declines are poorly known. By extracting DNA from non-invasively collected materials such as hair or feces, wild animal populations can be monitored and studied without capturing or even observing the individuals under study.

For my Ph.D. research I used chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) faecal samples collected opportunistically over five years from a portion of Loango National Park, Gabon, to show that genetic capture-recapture is an accurate and precise method of ape population estimation and an improvement over traditional methods of estimating ape population size. Furthermore, I was able to show that minimum number of ape groups, their composition and ranging patterns as well as individual cases of dispersal, group dissolutions and formations can also be obtained from the same samples. For gorillas, I was also able to establish kin relationships for several of the groups and to test hypotheses about kin structure across groups in the species, all from non-invasively and opportunistically collected samples. When properly designed and implemented as part of a long-term biomonitoring program, genetic capture-recapture should prove an invaluable tool for evaluating, even on a large scale, the population size and dynamics of apes and other elusive species.

I am extremely interested in applying genetics to conservation biology and in conservation in general. I have completed several side projects in addition to my thesis work including a study regarding the genetic determination of the country of origin of 4 confiscated wild-caught gorilla infants. From September to December 2006, I spent 3 months in Ivory Coast with the Tai Chimpanzee Project (Tai National Park) to collect fecal and wadge (chewed fruit) samples for genetic analysis.

I am also a founding member of the Conservation Group at the MPI-EVA, details on our most recent project, Club P.A.N., a conservation education program operating in Ivorian schools, updates on our activities can be found on the Club P.A.N. blog (http://clubpan.blogspot.com)


Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology - Leipzig, Germany
Last updated June 2012
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