Happy 2018 from the Karlsson Lab!

In this year’s card, we set out as intrepid explorers to swab and sequence the fantastic beasts of lore (and poke gentle fun at our far-ranging projects and diverse mix of species).  This year’s card is accompanied by our field guide “Fantastic Beasts and How to Swab Them”.

We spent 2017 branching out in new, exciting directions. Lots of directions. Seriously, our lab project list itself is beginning to look like a phylogenetic tree. Find out more about what we’ve been doing below!

So, what have we been up to?
  • We played with wolf puppies (one of the top New York Times science stories of the year!)  proving they are, in fact, genetically coded to be totally adorable, but still totally wild, and most definitely NOT dogs. Now, we’re trying to figure out exactly how wolves became dogs.  
  • We launched the Working Dog Project, a new initiative to figure out the genetics of these dogs’ remarkable behavior – and build new genetic tools to help find the best dogs for the job.
  • We started a new collaboration with Zoo New England that we’re, of course, calling “Zoonomics”, to study genetic diseases in gorillas, meerkats, ferrets, snakes, … (oh my!). We hope to aid species conservation efforts, and provide new perspective on human diseases.
  • Closing out the year, we started yet another citizen science project, Project Acari, to investigate how dangerous tick diseases are affecting our communities. Save any ticks you find for us!

Everything else just keeps getting … well … BIGGER. We sequenced nearly 140 genomes for our 200-ish Mammals project, now in its final stretches. Darwin’s dogs continues to grow, with over fourteen thousand participants, one-and-a-half million survey questions answered, and over four thousand DNA samples collected (waiting on a kit? we’re working really, really hard on getting them sent out!).  We combined data from humans, dogs and mice to find genes linked to OCD risk. We tested out liquid biopsy technology for our dog cancer research, with a vision of recruiting dog owners far and wide to help us scale up our cancer datasets. In our cholera research, we are preparing to test how tens of thousands of different genetic variants affect cells’ ability to fight to this deadly disease.

With all of these new species and directions, we’re gonna need a bigger boat. That’s why, in early 2018, we will launch … drumrollDarwin’s Ark. This initiative will be an integrated home for nearly all of our projects, while promoting public engagement, and serving as the communication and technology platform for all the diverse science, collaborators and our AMAZING community of citizen (and professional) scientists!

Wishing you a 2018 full of adventures!