Mendelspod Podcast
Elinor Karlsson on Darwin’s Ark

Elinor Karlsson on Darwin’s Ark

Today’s show is made free by the generous support of Twist Bioscience. Twist works in service of people changing the world for the better in fields such as medicine, agriculture, industrial chemicals, and data storage. Their unique silicon-based DNA synthesis platform provides precision that is otherwise unavailable. Check out their products at And join them as they write the future of science.


0:00 Pet dogs have complex genetics and phenotypic data

8:00 What is the primary interest of pet owners?

16:00 Breeds are relatively new—Victorian era new

25:53 Findings that relate to human genetics

34:00 Future goals


Elinor Karlsson began studying pet genetics when doing her PhD.  Today she directs the largest pet dog genetics databases and citizen science projects, Darwin’s Ark ( Elinor is a Professor at UMass Chan and the Broad Institute.

Why dogs?  Well, she works specifically with pet dogs who are tied to humans.  Dog owners love learning about their dogs--breed, behavior, anything—almost as much as they love sharing about them.  This opens up an opportunity for researchers to study an animal with complex genetics which also has tons of phenotypic data recorded.

 So what is Elinor able to tell these pet-loving owners?  How is the project improving dog medicine?  And what is canine genetics teaching us about us?

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