Willie Davidson

Molecular Biology & Biochemistry


The Davidson Research Group uses genomics and genetics to understand the basic biology of salmonid fishes and to apply this information to the production and conservation of salmon and char. For the past decade the Group has developed genomic resources for Atlantic salmon through the Genomics Research on Atlantic Salmon Project(GRASP) and the Consortium for Genomics on All Salmonids Project (cGRASP) funded by Genome Canada and Genome BC.

Among the resources that we developed were a physical map produced by fingerprinting a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) library and a linkage map based primarily on microsatellite markers from BAC-end sequences. This enabled the integration of the physical and linkage maps and also their integration with the karyotype. GRASP and cGRASP are being continued through the International Collaboration to Sequence the Atlantic Salmon Genome. The Davidson Research Group plays a major role in the assembly and annotation of the Atlantic salmon genome.

The biological questions that we are addressing span the realms of ecology, conservation biology, physiology, natural history, molecular evolution and comparative genomics. Specific projects that are ongoing in the lab include: an examination of genes involved in sex determination and quest for the master sex determining gene; the identification and characterization of genes that govern upper temperature tolerance, growth and sexual maturity with the goal of incorporating variants in theses genes into marker assisted breeding programs; and the characterization of gene duplicates, such as fatty acid binding proteins, and their fate after a whole genome duplication.

We are also interested in how salmon find their way back to their natal streams and the involvement of olfaction in this process. We are involved in projects that examine how salmon deal with pathogens such as viruses and sea lice.

Please note that the Davidson Research Group no longer works on human genetics, although we continue to be interested in the forensic application of DNA.