Dr Juliane Friedrich on the genetic diversity of indigenous cattle populations

She talks about the challenges in livestock genomics, how to translate information from research into practise and make science accessible to those who need it most, how grateful she is to work with great and helpful colleagues, and what inspired her to become a dry lab scientist.

Juliane studied agriculture and animal breeding at the University of Rostock and did her PhD at the Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology in Dummerstorf on the genetic background of cattle temperament and the interaction with milk performance.

As a Core Scientist at the Roslin Institute, she conducts various quantitative and population genetic analyses to investigate the genetic background of behaviour and disease in popular dog breeds and to gain insight into genetic admixture and selection in response to environmental adaptations in livestock species.

Dr Juliane Friedrich on a mountain

Could you briefly summarise your work?

Over the last few years I have been working with different animal species (livestock, but also dogs) using different approaches (from quantitative to population genetics), but at the moment I am working on the genetic diversity of African cattle populations. We want to investigate what differentiates these unique, locally adapted populations and find out more about their admixture. More specifically, we know that most of these populations are crossbreeds with varying proportions of Bos indicus and Bos taurus ancestors, and we want to investigate how this "admixture" translates to specific regions of the genome.

Why is your research important? How is it relevant to people's lives?

In the field of livestock genomics, the focus is on high-performance animals in Western countries. The tools and approaches developed for genomic selection, for example, are not necessarily applicable to or as powerful in livestock breeding in developing countries for a variety of reasons, including genetic diversity and admixture of locally adapted populations or breeds. We hope that by providing more information on the genetic architecture of these indigenous populations, we can develop more appropriate approaches and contribute to the conservation of locally adapted populations with high socioeconomic importance. In addition, by examining the genetic variations that distinguish native African cattle populations from one another, we may be able to identify regions in the genome associated with survival in challenging environments (e.g., adaptation to heat, drought, disease).

What are the major challenges in your field?

In my opinion, one of the biggest challenges in livestock genomics is translating information from research to practise and making science accessible to those who need it most.

Another issue that I personally find very interesting is how to combine knowledge and approaches from population and quantitative genetics - I think the two fields can learn a lot from each other.

What inspired you to be a scientist?

There was never a specific moment/person that inspired me to become a scientist. Thinking back, I always loved being in nature and was a very curious child trying to figure things out (I had a little "science" notebook where I for example drew sketches of plants and reported what my guinea pig was doing that day).

What do you like best about your job? What do you like the least?

What I like most is the variety of tasks and approaches I use, and that there is always something new to learn. And even though I spend most of my time in front of a screen, I interact with so many great and helpful colleagues.

What I like least is that sometimes it's hard to forget about work, and it's a challenge to switch off during a busy time.



Dr Juliane Friedrich with dog

If you could have tea with another scientist (alive or dead), who would it be? What would you talk about?

This is hard to answer, I can not single out any particular scientist, but I would love to meet with one of the scientists involved in Belyaev's farm fox experiment and discuss behavioural genetics and all the theories of domestication of dogs.

What is the most unusual thing you have done as a scientist?

During my PhD, I had to grind various bovine tissues (e.g., brain and liver) for protein analyses, which probably inspired me to become a dry lab scientist. I also visited dog shows around the UK as part of a project and had the opportunity to interact with very enthusiastic dog owners.

If you weren’t a scientist, what would you be doing?

I would work in a book shop.

Do you have any advice for people who want to go into this field of research or start a career as a scientist?

Be curious, confident, and don’t be scared to ask questions.

What do you think are the major challenges facing humanity? How can science help?

Clearly, this must be global warming. Many brilliant scientists have presented evidence, proposed tools to address the crisis, clearly communicated their findings, and advised policy makers. Now is the time for governments to act.

Related Links

Dr. Juliane Friedrich profile

The Roslin Institute