Thomas Connor's blog

July 19, 2017

Thomas Connor is a PhD student studying with Jack Liu. He's doing field work in and around Wolong, China.

My China fieldwork this year splits into two trips – June to August, then January to October of next year. These will differ from my previous trips in that this time, I am funded directly from government sources (An East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute [EAPSI] fellowship this summer and a Fulbright grant next year).

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Sept. 21, 2016

Thomas Connor is a PhD student studying with Jack Liu. He's doing field work in and around Wolong, China.

If you asked me a couple of years ago if I would ever experience waves of pleasure at the sight of fresh feces, I would have probably answered “maybe.” I can now give a definitive “yes” to that question if anyone was wondering, as my fall field work in Sichuan Province, China, kicks off the ground. I am now in the north of Wolong Nature Reserve, staying in the village of Genda. From there it is a 20-minute drive and a couple hour hike into the mountains to reach the edge of the reserve, where it borders Caopo Nature Reserve to the north. The quest for panda poo is not easy at this time of year – it is the tail end of the rainy season, which leaves ground slippery and muddy and the bamboo understory soaking wet even on clear days. The pandas in the area are also currently eating the leaves of arrow bamboo, a species that occurs at high elevations above 2700 meters. This means a long climb every day, usually with the threat of rain, and without the promise of success.

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July 5, 2016

Thomas Connor is a PhD student studying with Jack Liu. He's spending his summer doing field work in and around Wolong, China. 

Sweat streams down my face as I climb the steep slope. My guide and I are at around 2,000 meters elevation, and it usually stays quite cool even in these summer months, but the sun is full blast today and the hike is arduous. The slope must be at least 60 degrees, and all four limbs are needed to make progress up the mountain, with our hands grasping at vines or saplings for traction. Thorns and nettles scratch and sting, and our footing often gives way on the slick ground.

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Sept. 8, 2015

Thomas Connor is a first-year PhD student studying with Jack Liu. He's spending his summer doing field work in and around Wolong, China. 

I returned from my first trip to China. Happily I was able to recover enough to get back into the field, but alas only once. We hiked to the border of Wolong Nature Reserve and the reserve to the north, Caopo. This area had excellent panda habitat and we found four different fecal samples. From a conservation perspective this was nice to see, as it is clear that pandas can move freely between these two reserves. In the future I hope to use genetic data from fecal sampling to evaluate connectivity between Wolong and neighboring reserves and unprotected across a larger area.

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Aug. 4, 2015

Thomas Connor is a first-year PhD student studying with Jack Liu. He's spending his summer doing field work in and around Wolong, China. 

I have now been in China for almost two months, and realized I have not written any updates for quite some time. Perhaps this is because they would be too depressing! I unfortunately injured my knee a few weeks ago crashing a moped which brought my fieldwork to a halt, and when I tried to salvage the situation by working some in a lab I learned that I needed a finalized agreement before I could continue studying there. It was for the best anyway as even small amounts of walking in a day caused pain and soreness.

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Thomas Connor is a first-year PhD student studying with Jack Liu. He's spending his summer doing field work in Wolong, China. 

July 27, 2015

(Editor's note: This blog was written in mid-June, but held captive by limited internet access)

Yesterday was my first day venturing into the field to collect fecal samples for later genetic analysis. I hope to conduct a non-invasive genetics survey of Wolong Nature reserve and the surrounding areas to determine movement patterns and population structure at a reserve-network scale and determine some of the effects of human development and protection efforts on pandas.

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