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Livestock Biological Data Analysis Wins Top Award

By Jim Core
December 14, 2001

Agricultural Research Service animal geneticist L. Dale Van Vleck has won an agency award for his research proposal to develop a computer system to extract and analyze biological data for the genetic evaluation of livestock.

Van Vleck proposed developing procedures identifying valuable economic traits associated with genomic markers in livestock. These traits are called quantitative trait loci (QTL). Van Vleck will work with colleague R. Mark Thallman to track QTL through a population of animals. The resulting computer program will permit more effective and efficient statistical analysis of inherited traits to determine location and effects of important genes.

Van Vleck won the T. W. Edminster Research Associate Award for the top-ranked proposal out of 50 proposals selected by ARS for its 2002 Postdoctoral Research Associate Program. The program provides postdocs an opportunity to work closely with an experienced researcher in their field of interest. At the same time, postdocs get a chance to perform valuable research to help solve agricultural problems.

Van Vleck and colleagues at the Genetics and Breeding Research Unit in Clay Center, Neb., evaluate livestock to develop efficient breeding programs. They’ve developed genetic maps for beef, sheep and swine. The research unit is part of the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center.

ARS, the chief scientific research agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has allocated $4 million to fund 50 projects selected from a list of more than 400 proposals. Each ARS scientist whose proposal was accepted will receive $80,000 to provide a two-year appointment of a postdoc for high-priority research. Other winning proposals included:

  • Development of drought assessment tools incorporating improved monitoring and assessment of soil moisture using a new generation of satellite microwave remote sensing instruments.
  • Development of a system to reduce the time and cost for determining how naturally occurring pest control products work.
  • Research into how one of the most important plant pathogens, Xylella fastidiosa, colonizes root tissue in citrus and grapevine crops.
  • Creation of techniques to detect, and strategies to reduce, the occurrence of a pathogen, Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP), causing intestinal disease in dairy cattle and linked to Crohn’s disease in humans.