Fikret Isik, Professor in Forestry and Environmental Resources and the Associate Director of the NC State Tree Improvement Program, and a team of intercollegiate researchers at NC State just released a new book. The 400-page textbook, titled “Genetic Data Analysis for Plant and Animal Breeding,” fills an important gap between theory and application in the quantitative genetics world by providing real-world examples and data analysis to accompany software manuals.
Check out why Isik is excited to see five years of work finally pay off in his quick interview below. Both e-book and hardcover versions are now available for purchase and download from Springer International Publishing.
What inspired you to write this book with your colleagues?
It started with a workshop on genetic data analysis for plant and animal breeding in 2011. I invited my colleagues Dr. James Holland (maize geneticist with Crop and Soil Science), Christian Maltecca (geneticist with Animal Science) and Ross Whetten (molecular geneticist in Forestry and Environmental Resources) to teach modules. It was a successful one. Holland, Maltecca and I taught the same workshop in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2012. We felt that there is a real need for permanent graduate course at NC State to cover the latest developments in genomic applications to breeding. We developed an inter-departmental course “Advanced Topics in Quantitative Genetics and Breeding” and thought it in 2012, 2014 and 2016. As we worked on the lecture notes, we decided to convert our course notes to a textbook. My colleagues were naive enough to say yes!
It sounds like this book provides real genetic data and examples instead of just theoretical ones. Why was this important and how did you decide what to include?
The textbook covers brief quantitative genetic theory and connects it to real data analyses examples with interpretation. Quantitative genetic textbooks in the market do not have examples of data analysis. Software manuals provide details on analytical methods, but little context or perspective on which methods may be most appropriate for particular applications. We wrote this book to fill the gap between two.
Why do you think the market is lacking a ‘how-to’ book when it comes to analyzing genomic data for plant and animal breeding?
I think one reason is that it is challenging to combine the theory and real data examples in a textbook. Analysis of genomic data for plant breeding is very active area of research. Software change or new ones are being released. We had to re-write many chapters of the book because of new versions of the software. It is also a lot of work to write these types of books. It took us five years to finish it.
Did you find anything challenging or surprising during the process of writing this book?
Yes. It was frustrating when new versions of software released with very different syntax of coding. Because of this, we expect some chapters of the textbook will be out of date a in few years and new editions of the book need to be published to stay relevant.
What do you think the impact of this book with be?
We are providing some tools to breeders and graduate students in genetics and breeding field. We hope they will be helpful.