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Occupations for Animal Genetics

written by: Jason C. Chavis•edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 4/18/2010

Beyond simple laboratory research dealing with test tubes and Petri dishes, many jobs in genetics offer a chance to work with animals. Occupations for animal genetics vary depending on the particular discipline and take the form of anything from breeding to genetic engineering.

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    Animal Breeding

    Genetically Modified Cow 

    Perhaps the oldest and most prevalent occupations for animal genetics lies simply in the field of animal breeding. Since the dawn of man's domestication of animals, humans have attempted to modify the growth patterns of livestock to produce hardier food sources. Selective breeding techniques produce the desired traits in animals we use for a variety of survival needs. Today, much of this research involves controlling the genetic values of animals, revolutionizing the food and textile industries.

    Right: Genetically Modified Cow. (Supplied by foxypar4 at Flickr; Creative Commons 2.0; http://www.flickr.com/photos/foxypar4/2302057730/)

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    Veterinarian Genetics

    Much like the field of biotechnology deals in genetics to isolate the DNA factors responsible for certain diseases within the human genome, many organizations are working to isolate the genes that cause disorders in pets and other animals. There are a variety of diseases that impact cats, dogs and other animals specifically, prompting a need to break through the genetic code and isolate the factors that cause them. In addition, like most jobs in genetics much of the work on animals can be adapted for use within the human genome.

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    Behavioral Genetics

    Behavioral genetics is the study of the biological connection between actions of an animal and the genes in DNA. The behavior of animals over the course of successive generations tends to be similar from the parent to the child, leading scientists on the path of finding the exact gene or set of genes responsible for this action. For example, a family of ducks will walk generally in single file from location to location. This is an inherited trait that has nothing to do with the education of the duck. Behavioral genetics attempts to isolate the genetic reason for this activity.

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    Microbial Genetics

    Studying the genetics of microorganisms is called microbial genetics. Generally, this involves the mapping of genotypes and analyzing the genetic expression of a particular organism. The field of microbial genetics in particular is usually lab-based and balances other disciplines such as biotechnology and genetic engineering within its research.

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    Molecular Ecology

    A field of genomic research that studies the overall impact of evolutionary biology and population genetics with plants and animals is known as molecular ecology. Specifically, this occupation deals primarily with concepts like conservation genetics and making assessments of biodiversity within a specific area. This can be highly valuable as certain species become threatened within a particular environment. Molecular ecology is essential in finding ways to diversify wildlife and possibly even conduct hybridization experiments that may potentially help save the genomes of certain species that face extinction.

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    Animal cloning

    Perhaps the most notable of all occupations for animal genetics is the process of cloning. Since the development of Dolly the Sheep in 1996, animal cloning has created a number of breakthroughs both in the genetics community and for profit-making ventures such as the first genetically modified pet, the GloFish. Animal cloning also involves the potential to bring back extinct animals such as wooly mammoths or dinosaurs, facts that still remain in the realm of science fiction, but someday soon may become fact.

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    Resources

    " Animal Breeding and Genetics" Cornell University: http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/abc/index.html