概要 (English below)
This year, we decided to go on a big adventure as a group, to assess biodiversity in the Gobi Desert (Mongolia). We brought portable equipment for molecular biology toolkit and extracted RNA from the desert soil using a gasoline-fueled inverter to produce electricity. We also collected microbiome swabs for the MetaSUB international consortium.
Main Themes / Goals
A.Environmental RNA for Biodiversity Assessment [環境RNA技術を用いた生物多様性の調査]
Environmental RNA is useful for a complete assessment of biological ecosystems, gives information about both the species distribution and their roles. However, RNA expression profiles change rapidly and thus RNA needs to be extracted immediately on the site of collection using portable molecular biology equipment. We expect to identify novel extremophile species this cold desert climate known for its high content in heavy metals. The Oyu Tolgoi copper/gold mine, in particular, is expected to contain interesting bacterial and archaeal species.
B. Microbiomes of Monuments & Public Transportation sites [歴史的記念物と交通機関の微生物]
To analyze the microbiome of historical and cultural monuments (collaboration with MetaSUB)
Timeline (2018 edition)
8/10 - 8/31 Preparations in Tsuruoka, Japan 9/01 - 9/12 Fieldwork in Mongolia 9/13 - 9/30 Return to Japan & wrap-up 10/1 - 3/31 Follow-up study for publication (Mariko, Sota)
Dr. Josephine GALIPON (Keio University, IAB, Japan) Project leader
Focus: Tardigrades, Monument Microbiome
Nationality: France + Canada
After two trips to Mongolia in 2013 and 2017, Josephine decided to apply her molecular biology expertise to fieldwork biology. She supervised the project, including organization, funding, choice of portable equipment, RNA extraction methodology, air/soil sampling methods and general supervision of swabs for the MetaSUB consortium.
Ms. Mariko USUI (Keio University, Japan) 4th-year undergrad
Focus: Health & Environment, Bacteria
Mariko went to school in Singapore as a teenager and is interested in the impact of people’s environment and lifestyle on their health. She was in charge of logistics (ATA Carnet application for exporting/importing professional equipment) and air-soil sampling in the Gobi. She is now wrapping up the on-site soil RNA extraction method for her graduation thesis.
Ms. Marta CANO GUERRERO (University of York, UK) 3rd-year undergrad
Focus: Wildlife Conservation, Bacteria
Marta spent part of her high school years in the USA and joined Josephine’s lab in 2017 as an intern. In the end, she couldn’t go to the Gobi due to urgent surgery on her knee, but she helped us during the summer of 2018 to optimize the soil RNA extraction method.
Mr. Tomoro WARASHINA (Keio University, Japan) 3rd-year undergrad
Tomoro spent his whole life hunting for butterflies, starting with his father from a young age. He now has accumulated near-encyclopedic knowledge about the insect kingdom. This time, he surveyed insects found at the sampling sites during the project as well as helping out with others’ tasks.
Mr. Sota ITO (Keio University, Japan) 2nd-year undergrad
Focus: Plant Biology
Nationality: Plant Kingdom
Since the age of 9, Sota has been studying a variety of Heloniopsis orientalis (Order: Liliales, Family: Melanthiaceae), an interesting plant on which an “adventitious bud” (basically, a new baby plant) tends to appear at the extremity of leaves after they are cut from the mother plant. During the fieldwork, he surveyed plant species in the Gobi area and is now gathering DNA sequence data for the conserved genomic regions of species for which genetic information is currently unavailable on NCBI.
Mr. Tomoki TAKEDA (Keio University, Japan) 2nd-year undergrad
Focus: Environmental DNA, Microbiome
Tomoki has had experience with bioinformatics and comparative genomics in his first project as an undergraduate and his involvement in the GoSWAB project to sample the microbiome of cities and homes in Tokyo. During our time in Mongolia, he was in charge of swabbing touristic monuments and public transportation spots such as Ulaanbaatar Railway Station and the Chinggis Khaan International Airport.
Collaborators in Mongolia
- Dr. Boldgiv BAZARTSEREN, Ph. D. (National University of Mongolia) – [Google Scholar]
… … … …
- Ms. Anne-Camille SOURIS, M. Sc. (Association GOVIIN KHULAN) – [Website] [LinkedIn] [ResearchGate]
Focus: Wildlife Conservation, Mongolian khulan/hemione
She has been studying Mongolian wild Equids for about 10 years, and in 2008, she started a conservation program that aims to enhance protection of the not well known but threatened Mongolian khulan/hemione (or Mongolian wild ass) and its habitat, and in which the local community is directly involved. She will bring to the Gobi Biome project her expertise on the Mongolian khulan and other Gobi wildlife, and on fieldwork in the south Gobi. The Gobi biome project could make a great contribution to Gobi wildlife conservation and could lead to further research and conservation actions in partnership with Anne-Camille’s non-profit conservation organization and local partners.
Ulaanbaatar to Dalangadzad (10-11 hours)
Dalangadzad to Small Gobi A (5-6 hours)
Small Gobi A to Oyu Tolgoi mine (2-3 hours)
Oyu Tolgoi mine to Dalangadzad (5-6 hours)
Dalangadzad to Ulaanbaatar (10-11 hours)
- Monument microbiome of Chingghis Khan statue – Ulaanbaatar
- Monument microbiome of Warrior statue – Dalangadzad
- Microbiome (air/soil) at the Oyu Tolgoi mining site
- Microbiome (air/soil) at several locations inside Small Gobi A
- Microbiome of Wildlife Intestinal Flora
- Plants, Insects (according to international regulations)
View from the top of a mountain in the Gobi Small A Restricted Area
Melting agarose for gel electrophoresis in the steppes near Oyu Tolgoi
Meeting with domestic camels on our way to Oyu Tolgoi