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  • AGAR Workshop 2014: A Firsthand Experience
  • Darice Westphal

The third annual Application of Genomics to Anthropological Research workshop, sponsored by the American Association of Anthropological Genetics (AAAG) was held January 9–10, 2014. The workshop, focusing on laboratory, genetic, and epigenetic techniques in primate research, was co-hosted by the Southwest National Primate Research Center at Texas Biomedical Research Institute. Below, Darice Westphal, AAAG student travel prize winner, reports on the workshop and how it will benefit her research.

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Figure 1.

Attendees at the 2014 AGAR Workshop on Primate Genomics.

I am a PhD student in physical anthropology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY) and The New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology (NYCEP) in the proposal stage of my dissertation work. I am interested in understanding the contribution of ecological gradients and landscape barriers to the distribution of adaptive traits in primates. Specifically my proposal will use a combination of morphological and ecological variables to model the effect of hypothesized barriers on genetic variability at a local level.

To aid in the development of my dissertation work, I attended the third Application of Genomics to Anthropological Research (AGAR) workshop. This two-day workshop, sponsored by the Education Committee of the American Association of Anthropological Genetics (AAAG) at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute on January 9th and 10th, combined lectures and tutorials to address application of genomic techniques in wild and captive populations of nonhuman primates. [End Page 807]

Several of the talks at the AGAR workshop had direct implications for my project. Dr. George (PJ) Perry’s talk on non-invasive sampling focusing on fecal-derived DNA provided perspective on inherent difficulties of working with degraded, low-quality DNA. Dr. Christopher Schmitt’s talk on obesity phenotypes in vervet monkeys offered insight on field collection techniques and solutions to sample preservation and shipment. Dr. Ellen Quillen’s tutorial on empirical kinship calculations using SOLAR provided ideas on how to deal with unknown relationships in field collected samples.

Besides the specified talks, many of the researchers in attendance were working on similar primate genomics projects. Talking with many of the participants allowed me to gauge the appropriateness of specific analytical programs and make connections for future troubleshooting. The focused topic of the workshop and the many social activities greatly facilitated the ability to make connections and generate discussion.

With my experience at the AGAR workshop I was able to make connections to aid in the continued development of my dissertation and apply what I learned immediately to laboratory protocols and analysis of the resulting data. [End Page 808]



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