Bioinformatics/GIS program aim is to protect chimpanzees

Blacksburg, Va. -- A faculty member in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech has been awarded a $726,476 National Science Foundation CAREER grant to develop a more "holistic" system for the integration of technology, research and education through a project designed to study and protect chimpanzees in Tanzania.

Taranjit Kaur has received the prestigious NSF funding to support a five-year program entitled "Bridging the Gaps Using Bush-to-Base-Bio-Informatics, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and a Program Called "READ-IT."

"This is all about integrating research and education," said Kaur, who also serves as Virginia Tech's director of laboratory animal resources. She plans to create an "electronic infrastructure" that will take a multidisciplinary approach to developing improved wildlife management strategies in the east African nation.

Kaur, who has traveled to Africa several times, conceived the project around a proprietary program she has developed called "READ-IT," an acronym which stands for Research, Education, and Dissemination via Information Technology. It represents a multidisciplinary career development strategy that seeks to bridge the gaps between discovery, learning and the diffusion of information in the biological sciences.

"Everything I do brings together humans, animals and the environment, and the dynamic interaction between them," said Kaur. The goal of this project transcends the immediate benefit of using technology and training programs to improve conservation management strategies for chimpanzee populations in the jungles of a nation home to the famed Mount Kilimanjaro, Kaur explains.

To accomplish this greater goal, she plans to focus on the immediate task of helping the Tanzanian National Park Authority (TANAPA) develop science-based management strategies that will protect the free-ranging chimpanzee population from tourism-related problems like disease

Contact: Jeff Douglas
Virginia Tech

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