Conservation Genetics Research Fellowship for Development of Long-term Genetics Study of Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis Diardi) and Sympatric Carnivores
Brown University, USA
An Urbanite’s Calling To Be a Wildlife Guardian
Raised in Selangor, wildlife biologist Chrishen Gomez first developed an affinity for the natural world during family trips to Malaysia's majestic islands.
This passion flourished during his four-year stint in Sarawak while pursuing his undergraduate degree in Resource Biotechnology, exposing him to the pristine and biodiverse forests of Borneo.
Now living in Sabah, Chrishen oversees the Bornean Carnivore Programme, leading a team of six researchers dedicated to studying the entire Bornean mammalian carnivore guild.
Chrishen's research project, titled 'Conservation Genetics Research Fellowship for the Development of a Long-term Genetics Study of Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi) and Sympatric Carnivores,' led to him receiving the prestigious Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment in 2019.
Navigating the new normal during his attachment.
Through the grant, Chrishen was able to spend 4 months in Brown University, Rhode Island  to further his research. Chrishen also currently manages the Bornean Carnivore Programme, with a team of six researchers studying the entire Carnivore guild on Borneo that comprises 24 unique species.
While there, he delved on the topic of Ecology and DNA where he was able to use DNA technology and study how seasonal variations and changes affect the unique system we have now.
Chrishen credits the experience for bringing him out of his comfort zone and showcased how dynamic the science of conservation can be. During his attachment, where he worked with Dr. Tyler Kartzinal, one of the world’s leading experts in conservation genetics, Chrishen was exposed to working in a dynamic lab and was immersed in science every waking moment.
Unfortunately, all did not go swimmingly as COVID-19 swept through the US just three weeks upon his arrival at Brown University. However, thanks to his supervisor Dr. Kartzinel’s quick thinking, Chrishen was provided with new data to work with ensuring his attachment would be productive.
A springboard for brighter careers
The award has laid the groundwork for Chrishen’s PhD project, and through the skills and experiences he gained, Chrishen has been able to develop his research hypothesis and admission into Oxford University this year on Clouded Leopards.
Chrishen considers the Merdeka Award Grant an amazing springboard for Malaysians to connect to their specialised fields, and as a young professional, he sees value in gaining the right experiences and circle of support early on in one’s journey.
Innovation is the future of conservation.
Since conservation research is still a budding field in Malaysia, our country needs more young people who are willing to explore into the fields of research with a long-term clear goal.  Using innovative technology, Chrishen uses  infrared monitors and genetic surveillance to give live data, but also past data for more accurate models in the future. With the right talent and capacity building, more resources can be channeled to developing conservation research and advocacy projects led and run by committed professionals as well as work with the indigenous communities whose lives are deeply linked to wild places.
The information in this award recipient's profile is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the time the award was presented. Any subsequent changes, updates, or developments in the individual's life or achievements may not be reflected in this profile.


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