Pet dogs, citizen science and the genomics of behavior

Elinor Karlsson

Broad Institute

Elinor Karlsson is the director of the Vertebrate Genomics Group at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. She is also an assistant professor in bioinformatics and integrative biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She is excited by the potential for using our own evolutionary history to understand how the human genome works, and in how that knowledge can lead to advances in healthcare.

Karlsson’s current projects include the 200 Mammals Genome Project, an international effort led by the Vertebrate Genomics group at the Broad to compare hundreds of different mammalian genomes and identify critically important segments of DNA. She is also studying recent human evolution to find the genetic variation that makes some people resistant to ancient infectious diseases, like cholera. Karlsson has a special interest in diseases shared between humans and dogs. She recently launched the citizen science-driven Darwin’s Dogs project, which invites all dog owners to participate directly in research exploring the genetic basis of dog behavior, as well as diseases such as OCD and cancer.


Humans have exerted strong selective pressure on dogs, shaping complex behaviors, like guarding, herding, pointing, and retrieving. While this selection drives large effect variants up in prevalence, making them easier to... [ view full abstract ]


KN-3 » Keynote (08:45 - Thursday, 18th May, La Fonda Ballroom)