Scientists interested in finding specific genes that influence the behavior of humans and animals have a new tool, thanks to a two-year research effort aimed at describing how to apply the latest techniques of molecular genomics to the study of complex behavior. “There’s a really steep learning curve when you get into genomics, and if you’re starting from a place of very little knowledge, it’s incredibly intimidating,” said Sarah Bengston, a Rice University behavioral ecologist and lead author of a new review article about genomic tools for behavioral scientists. “I am the person who needed this paper,” said Bengston, a Huxley Faculty Fellow in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in Rice’s Department of BioSciences. “I needed a novice-level introduction to how genomic tools could help me answer research questions. For example, was my experimental setup an appropriate system to use for genomic sequencing or any kind of molecular techniques? I couldn’t find that kind of reference, so I worked with a group of really smart people to write one.”
The article, which appears online this week in Nature Ecology and Evolution, is designed to guide behavioral scientists from any discipline with specific recommendations about whether genomics tools are appropriate for their research, and if so, which tools are likely to best work in their labs.