Professor John Woolliams

Personal Chair of Mathematical Genetics


John Woolliams is a Senior Principal Investigator at Roslin Institute and a Professor II at the University of Life  Sciences in Ǻs, Norway. His main area of study has been in quantitative genetics applied to livestock breeding and conservation of animal genetic resources. He is acknowledged as a world authority on the genetic management of small population breeds


1999 Doctor of Science, University of Edinburgh

1979 Master of Arts, University of Cambridge

1976 Bachelor of Arts, University of Cambridge

Dip.Math.Stat. Corpus Christi, Cambridge University 1977 Statistics

Responsibilities & affiliations


1994 Member of FAO Working Party on Ex Situ Conservation of Livestock

1995 Member of FAO Working party on In Situ Conservation of Livestock

1997-2004 Member of EAAP Working Party on Animal Genetic Resources

1997 Chairman FAO Group for Secondary Guidelines on Management of Small Populations at Risk

1997 Member of FAO/ISZ Working Party on Implications of developments in Biotechnology for theConservation of Animal Genetic Resources at Risk: Reversible DNA Quiescence and Cloning.

1998-2000 PIC Quantitative Genetics Advisory Group

1999 Chairman of FAO Working Group on ‘Active Breed Use in Low and Medium Environments’, Grottaferrata, Italy

2001-2 National Consultative Committee on Farm Animal Genetic Resources

2002 Member of Drafting Group for UK Country Report on Farm Animal Genetic Resources

2002 Member of Expert Group to prepare guidelines for Nordic Gene Bank

2003 Member of Drafting Group for 3rd Session of Intergovernmental Technical Working Group, FAO

2004-6 Member of Defra National Standing Committee on Farm Animal Genetic Resources

2004-6 Chairman of Identification and Monitoring Sub-Committee for Defra NSC on FAnGR, including co-drafting of National Action Plan 

2007 Member of USDA/ARS Review Panel of Strategic Programme on Genetics & Germplasm 

2007 Appointment to Defra National Steering Committee on Farm Animal Genetic Resources

Undergraduate teaching


1991- MSc “Quantitative Genetics and Genome Analysis”, University of Edinburgh (10 contact hours)

1995 “Genetic resources in farm animals: effects of animal breeding in short- and long-term”, Agricultural University of Norway (9 contact hours)

2000 Invited International Lecture Course “Genetic Variance, Gain and Inbreeding in Selection Schemes”, Wageningen Agricultural University (1 week)

2003 Design Team and Lecturer for FAO/CIHEAM international course “Conservation and Management of Animal Genetic Resources”, CIHEAM, Zaragoza, Spain (1 week).

2004- Management of AnGR (University of Life Sciences, Norway; 10 contact hours)

Research summary

Quantitative genetics of selected and managed populations, design and operation of breeding schemes, prediction of genetic merit for complex traits and genetic epidemiology.

Current research interests

Quantitative genetics of selected and managed populations, design and operation of breeding schemes, prediction of genetic merit for complex traits and genetic epidemiology. My research in quantitative genetics is concerned with genetic change, which is the primary objective of most commercial breeding schemes. Breeding schemes wish to maximize the rate of change towards their objectives (ΔG). However there are risks involved in breeding schemes; such as introducing undesirable characteristics including genetic diseases, or losing variation for further change; the probability or speed of these risks occurring is closely related to the rate of inbreeding (ΔF). My main area of interest has been to exploit the concept of a long-term genetic contribution of an ancestor, which is the proportion of genes in an individual that derive from the ancestor by descent. This has included placing the work into the context of our increasing understanding of DNA its implications, and the need to understand how linked genes flow through populations. This has proved to be a unifying concept, both conceptually and as a predictive framework that has provided solutions to many long-standing genetic problems, as well as the new challenges arising from DNA technology. Additionally my contact and implementation work with commercial breeding schemes has led to an interest in developing necessary attributes for sustainable breeding schemes, including in situ and ex situ conservation schemes and selection programmes in developing countries, and working with highly effective commercial breeding companies in the developed world.

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