Genetic Mapping Helps Meet Food Needs of World Regions

Mason News May 14, 2012

Getting the Right Goat: Genetic Mapping Helps Meet Food Needs of World Regions

By Michele McDonald

Equipped with measuring tape, camera and a few other tools, a Mason doctoral student is applying lessons learned from the U.S dairy industry to goats in Africa as one way to combat hunger.

African goat market. USDA photo

Jennifer Woodward-Greene is traveling to Ethiopia and Kenya in early June to measure goats and sample their DNA as part of her work with the global hunger and food security program Feed the Future, with theU.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and for her PhD in Mason’sBioinformatics and Computational Biology Department.

“One of the main objectives is to work with the people in their own country to develop sustainable solutions to the problem of hunger, rather than only providing short-term aid,” Woodward-Greene says of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Feed the Future initiative.

Researchers working in goats can learn a thing of two from experience with cows. U.S. dairy cows have increased milk production more than fourfold over the past 40 years due to better breeding, says Curt Van Tassell, a leading bovine geneticist with the USDA’s …