May 23, 2012

Learn to apply genomics in animal breeding at July workshop

By Madeline McCurry-Schmidt / ASAS Communications

This July, students, university scientists and industry researchers will have a chance to learn the latest about the application of genomics information in animal breeding. From July 8 to 13, participants at the Workshop on Genomic Selection in Livestock in Phoenix, Arizona will get hands-on experience in areas like Bayesian methods, genomic predictions and finding QTL regions.

At the July workshop, Jack Dekkers, a professor of animal science at Iowa State University, will discuss genotyping and the underlying genetics and approaches for using low- or high-density SNP panels. Iowa State University professors Dorian Garrick and Rohan Fernando will join Dekkers and discuss statistical methods behind whole-genome prediction using high-density SNP information. Their goal is to cover the scientific techniques and how those techniques can be applied in the real world.

“It’s all about how genomics information can be used in selection programs and QTL mapping research,” Dekkers said. “That’s a rapidly developing area.”

Professors at Iowa State University have given similar workshops previously at Iowa State University and in Europe and Australia.

“The field has been moving very quickly, so we’ll be modifying the short course to keep up with the latest developments,” said Dekkers.

The short course is an extension of online distance-delivery curriculum in breeding and genetics, funded by the USDA-NIFA Higher Education Challenge Grant program.

Ron Lewis, a professor of animal genetics at Virginia Tech and organizer of the breeding and genetics curriculum, thinks the combined online and short course series helps fill a gap in animal science graduate education.

“It is becoming more challenging to provide graduate students with a comprehensive set of training,” Lewis said.

In Phoenix, short course participants will get a chance to practice using the statistical programming language R. Dekkers said participants should not worry if they have not used R before.

“They should be able to follow along,” Dekkers said. “We’ll be providing some of the code and the programs.”

Dekkers said there will many opportunities for participants to learn from each other. There will be labs throughout the course and participants will have the opportunity to work together.

“We bring people together from different universities, from different industries,” Dekkers said. “There will be a lot of opportunity for interaction.”

Dekkers said one advantage to meeting in person instead of through the online course is the opportunity to trade ideas. He said participants will also discuss the challenges and “pitfalls” of the use of genomics information in selection programs and research. With the field of genomics moving so quickly, Dekkers said there are still many “unanswered questions.”

“We need a good deal of back and forth between the instructors and the students,” Dekkers said. “We’re looking forward to going to Phoenix and doing this course.”

To register for the Genomics Short Course, go to: Attendees will receive a discount rate at the Sheraton Phoenix. Registration is limited to the first 70 people to sign up.