Marsh Award for Conservation in Genetic Bio-Diversity
This Award, run in association with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, recognises individuals or a group that have made significant technical, scientific and practical contributions to the field of genetic bio-diversity. The Award has been running since 1996.
The understanding of genetic bio-diversity is of great importance in helping the conservation of rare breeds as well as encouraging breed variation. The Award recognises those who have shown a commitment to their research in this field, and who have gone to great lengths to apply their knowledge, and work with other individuals and organisations, in order to achieve these aims.
Pictured: Hackney Horses
The 2012 winner is Profesor John Woolliams
Professor John Woolliams is a quantitative geneticist employed by the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, and his work covers both theoretical and applied aspects of genetics in managed populations. He is recognised as a world authority on the genetic management of breeds of farm livestock with small populations, and the ‘unified theory of genetic gain and variance’ he and his co-workers developed has applications to genetic conservation not just for rare breeds, but more widely, such as in the genetic management of numerically abundant but inbred populations.
Prof. Woolliams’ genetics research extends across many livestock species, including sheep, pigs, cattle and salmon, but always combines elements of genomics and genetics.
His work in general has significantly furthered our understanding of DNA and genetics, and particularly the mechanisms and implications of how linked genes are passed on in livestock populations, which is very important for conservation. His work has also contributed to the advance of DNA technologies (‘Dolly the sheep’, cloning etc.)
Prof. Woolliams has worked closely with many industry partners including breeding companies, breed societies and RBST. He has helped to advise breed societies on the risks of introducing undesirable characteristics, including genetic diseases, or of losing genetic variation. He has freely and readily offered advice to RBST when asked, and is one of the Trust’s ‘turn-to’ experts whenever advice on genetic matters is required.
Pictured above: Rare breed Portland Sheep, photograph attributed to Paul Thornton
The Rare Breeds Survival Trust