Thanks to the Xinbin lab of the Chinese Academy of Sciences for analyzing our samples in record time. The results of the analysis completely surprised us. Every sample was nearly ten times lower than the World Health Organizations recommended limit.
This great news sparked us to take a further look as to why the levels are so low. At first glance, as was previously thought, the pandas are eating bamboo covered in deposited soot from a smog covered sky. You can rub your fingers over the bamboo and they come off black. What we discovered next explained the pandas clean bill of health.
I will reveal their secret in a future post as we get closer to writing up the results.
Being the only Americans in a city of 1.25 million, you tend to stick out a little bit. It just so happened that we caught the eye of a reporter from the Ya’an Daily Newspaper. Over a steaming bowl of Ya’an’s best noodles at Mr. Cheng’s, we spoke about our projects involving the Giant Panda and also about our experiences in China.
If we didn’t stick out before, we certainly will now.
Both Meghan and I were approached by a few kids from the local high school and asked if we could come and lecture for a few hours on what we do in China.
It was quite a treat to learn about the lives of the students and how they all seem to think that biologist don’t make any money. Very true. After telling them about our research we asked them what they wanted to do after high school. The majority said that they wanted to be doctors, but a few simply wanted to be able to travel the world.
We also learned that it costs them about 3000RMB per year to attend school as a junior and senior. With the average monthly income of about 2000RMB per month, their parents are spending a significant amount of their overall income on a single child’s schooling. I can’t imagine having two or three in school at the same time.
The rest of the day was spent answering questions about life in America and how much certain items cost, such as computers, iphones, rent and cars. We brought a few english magazines and three dozen snickers bars, of which they engulfed as soon as we left the room. It was very nice for them to invite us to speak about our lives as international researchers and we plan to give one more lecture before leaving.
The extreme difficulty in obtaining permits to transfer biological samples back to the United States from China has caused our mercury project to use a lab here in China. We are very pleased to have made contact with one of China’s foremost Methylmercury experts, Prof. Feng Xinbin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guiyang, China, who is currently analyzing all of our samples. We expect to have results within a few months.