My life with the Red Queen in fishery genetics

Beyond extroversion-introversion, other cognitive variables shape our choices of research problems and how we address them

W Stewart Grant

2021

Scholarcy highlights

  • I had the privilege of being a part of fishery genetics from its start in the 1970s, when protein electrophoresis was first used to identify stocks of commercially important fishes and shellfishes
  • Research questions in fishery genetics have evolved tremendously over the past few decades, as new molecular techniques changed the nature of the questions that could be posed
  • Twists and turns in the history of fishery genetics parallel the story of the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass
  • This essay stems from my experiences in fishery genetics from its inception in the early 1970s and focuses on three threads running through its short history: a persistent turnover of molecular techniques, the development of computer software to implement new statistical methods and the evolution of the conceptual framework in population genetics
  • Fellow grad student George Milner had written a mixed-stock computer program and produced an iterative maximum likelihood algorithm that took a lot of computer time, even for modest datasets. He once got a notice that whatever he was doing took 25% of the university's mainframe capacity for several hours
  • When I walked into Fred Utter's lab at NOAA just across the Lake Union-Lake Washington canal from the University of Washington in 1975 to learn a new molecular technique, I entered a conceptual world shaped by the 1930s concept of genes-on-a-string proposed by Beadle and Tatum and by the population genetic equations of RA Fisher, JSB Haldane and S Wright
  • Fred Utter introduced me to the excitement of population genetics, and connected me with research project on salmon in Alaska that led to the development of new management techniques

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