Breeding and Genetics

Two students looking through a microscope as another student looks on.

Peta-Gaye Clachar

The breeding and genetics group is known for its historical and recent accomplishments in the development and application of quantitative genetics and molecular genetics approaches for improvement of beef, swine, poultry, sheep, and horses. We are fortunate to have a faculty group with diverse research interests and expertise to provide a comprehensive training of future professionals in the field of modern animal breeding and genetics. The range of current research efforts spans quantitative to molecular investigations, and is characterized by well-funded, team-oriented, multi-disciplinary projects. General areas of research include development and evaluation of statistical approaches in animal breeding and identification of genes and genetic variants affecting a large variety of traits across different species.

The group maintains strong collaborations with allied departments such as Statistics and Veterinary Science, and with the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center and U.S. Sheep Experiment Station. An online graduate-level teaching program in Quantitative Genetics and Genomics (http://www.agidea.org/programs/gen/) established by members of our faculty has world-wide impact, having served over 300 students from 34 domestic and 5 international academic institutions. A joint Ph.D. program (dual major) in Animal Science and Statistics is also available. Undergraduate employment includes UCARE and independent study projects as well as part-time work in the molecular and quantitative genetics laboratories.

RECENT AND ONGOING RESEARCH PROJECTS:

  • Evaluation of novel statistical approaches for including genomic data into selection and management plans
  • Development of phenotyping strategies to capture fine “signatures” of disease states such innate immunity indicators in viral-infected swine
  • Development of real-time tracking devices to monitor changes in body temperature, methane emission, behavior and energy efficiency in beef and swine, and plant-wax markers to estimate forage intake and diet composition in grazing cattle
  • Evaluation of the role of host genetics in response to a range of stressors such as viral pathogens in swine (PCV2, PRRSV, APPV) and beef (BVDV, IBK), gastrointestinal nematode infection in sheep as well as the response to heat stress in swine, cattle and sheep
  • Annotation of regulatory and epigenetic signatures that influence expression of genes and affect stress phenotypes in horse and swine
  • Quantification of the genetic and nutrition effects on sow fertility
  • Deep phenotyping of swine structure and activity