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Advanced Courses in Life Sciences

3rd Edition

Introduction to Evolutionary Quantitative Genetics

March 30th – April 3rd, 2020, Crete (Greece)

Genetics and Genomics

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Due to the current situation and restrictions regarding traveling, this course has been postponed. The course will be rescheduled at a later stage when the outbreak has calmed down. If you want to receive information on the new date please SUBSCRIBE to our Newsletter.

Introduction to Evolutionary Quantitative Genetics

Course overview

The response to both natural and artificial selection critically depends on the additive genetic variances and covariances underlying the traits subject to selection. As a consequence, understanding the genetic basis of complex morphological, life-history, physiological, ornamental and behavioural traits is crucial if we are to understand their evolutionary potential, and the evolutionary process in general.

Quantitative genetics uses the phenotypic resemblance among related individuals to infer the role of genes and the environment in shaping phenotypic variation. Depending on the species, we can use data obtained from breeding experiments under controlled conditions (e.g. insects, plants), or from individual-based monitoring programs in the wild (e.g. birds and mammals). Especially the latter has benefited greatly from the application of animal model methodology, originally developed in animal breeding to identify individuals of high genetic merit. By simultaneously using the resemblance among all individuals in the pedigree, these methods provide more precise and accurate estimates of genetic and non-genetic variance components (heritabilities and genetic correlations). Furthermore, they allow for the estimation of individual-level genetic effects (breeding values), and thereby the inference of evolution.

In this course we will cover everything from basic quantitative genetic theory and statistics to advanced mixed model-based approaches. You will learn how to estimate genetic variances and covariances in wild and captive populations, and how to test for evolutionary change. Along the way, you will be exposed to a range of general statistical methods (including generalised and mixed models), the R packages MCMCglmm and ASReml-R in particular. Furthermore, we will discuss a number of landmark papers that have put the concepts and methods covered during the lectures and practicals into practice to address fundamental evolutionary questions. You are strongly encouraged to bring your own data (if you have them), which you will be able to work on during the course and which will allow you to put the theory into practice.


Alexander Hotel

Gerakári, Municipality of Amari, 74 061
Crete, Greece


March 30th – April 3rd, 2020




32 hours on-site.

This course is equivalent to 2 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) at the Life Science Zurich Graduate School.

The recognition of ECTS by other institutions depends on each university or school.


Places are limited to 20 participants and will be occupied by strict registration order.

Participants who have completed the course will receive a certificate at the end of it.


Erik Postma instructor for Transmitting Science

Dr. Erik Postma
University of Exeter
United Kingdom

Jesús Martínez-Padilla instructor for Transmitting Science

Dr. Jesús Martínez-Padilla
ARAID – Senior researcher
Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (CSIC)


Haris Saslis coordinator for Transmitting Science

Dr. Haris Saslis
Transmitting Science

Jesús Martínez-Padilla instructor for Transmitting Science

Dr. Jesús Martínez-Padilla
ARAID – Senior researcher
Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (CSIC)

Contact: courses.crete@transmittingscience.org


Graduate or postgraduate degree in any Biosciences discipline. All participants must bring their own personal laptop (Windows, Macintosh, Linux).

While some knowledge of R (e.g. importing and manipulating data) is required, you do not need any previous experience with quantitative genetics and animal models.


Monday, March 30th, 2020.

  • Morning:
    • Lecture: Key concepts in evolutionary biology.
      • Natural selection.
      • Gene flow.
      • Genetic drift.
      • Mutations.
    • Lecture: Quantitative genetic theory.
      • Mendelian basis of continuous traits.
      • Different types of gene action.
      • Additive and non-additive genetic variances.
      • Breeding values.
    • Lecture: Basic statistics.
      • Correlation
      • Regression
      • ANOVA
    • Afternoon:
      • Lecture: Heritability and its estimation.
        • Parent-offspring regression.
        • Fullsib/halfsib analysis.
      • Practical: Estimating heritability.
        • Simulate data on parents and offspring.
        • Estimate heritabilities using parent-offspring regression and ANOVA.
      • Lecture: Quantifying evolvability.
        • Estimation.
        • Heritability versus evolvability.
        • Determinants of evolvability.
      • Discussion of research paper.

    Tuesday, March 31st, 2020.

    • Morning:
      • Lecture: Quantitative genetic theory.
        • Genetic correlations.
        • Phenotypic plasticity.
        • Genotype-environment interactions.
    • Lecture: Mixed models.
      • Practical: Mixed models.
        • Fitting mixed models in lme4 and asreml-R.
        • Mixed model analysis of halfsib data.
    • Afternoon:
      • Lecture: Pedigree reconstruction.
        • Structure.
        • Pedigree errors.
        • Pedigree reconstruction.
      • Practical: Pedigrees.
        • Analysis of own (or simulated) pedigree data.
        • Descriptive statistics.
        • Visualisation.
      • Discussion of research paper.

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020.

  • Morning:
    • Lecture: The animal model.
      • Advantages.
      • Some theory.
  • Practical: Fitting animal models in ASReml-R.
  • Afternoon:
    • Lecture: Selection and its response.
      • Artificial and natural selection.
      • Breeder’s equation.
      • Evolutionary constraints.
    • Analysis of own (or simulated) data.
    • Discussion of research paper.

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020.

  • Morning:
    • Lecture: Breeding values.
      • True versus predicted breeding values.
      • Genetic selection differentials.
      • Temporal trends.
      • Drift versus adaptive evolution
    • Practical: MCMCglmm
      • Bayesian statistics and priors.
      • Estimating heritability.
      • Quantifying (adaptive) evolution.
  • Afternoon:
    • Lecture: Generalised linear models and animal models.
    • Analysis of own data
    • Discussion of research paper.

Friday, April 3rd, 2020.

  • Morning:
    • Lecture: Advanced topics.
    • Presentations


  • Falconer DS, Mackay TFC (1996) Introduction to quantitative genetics, Prantice Hall, Harlow, United Kingdom, 4th Edition.
  • Lynch M, Walsh B (1998) Genetics and analysis of quantitative traits, Sinauer, Sunderland, MA, United States.
  • Kruuk LEB (2004) Estimating genetic parameters in natural populations using the ‘animal model’. Phil Trans R Soc Lond B, 359: 873-890.
  • Kruuk LEB, Slate J, Wilson AJ (2008) New answers for old questions: The evolutionary quantitative genetics of wild animal populations. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst, 39: 525-548.
  • Wilson AJ, Réale D, Clements MN, Morrissey MM, Postma E, Walling CA, Kruuk LEB, Nussey DH (2010) An ecologist’s guide to the animal model. J Anim Ecol, 79: 13-26.
  • Charmantier A, Garant D, Kruuk LEB (2014) Quantitative genetics in the wild, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom.


  • Course Fee
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  • Early bird (until February 28th, 2020):
  • 520 *

    (416 for Ambassador Institutions)

  • Regular (after February 28th, 2020):
  • 640 *

    (512 for Ambassador Institutions)

  • This includes course material, coffee breaks and lunches (VAT included).
    * Participants from companies/industry will have an extra charge of 100 €.
  • Course Fee + Accommodation Package
  • {{content-1}}
  • Early bird (until February 28th, 2020):
  • 520 * + 350 = 870

    (766 for Ambassador Institutions)

  • Regular (after February 28th, 2020):
  • 640 * + 350 = 990

    (862 for Ambassador Institutions)

  • This includes course material, coffee breaks, transportation from and to Heraklion or Chania, accommodation from Sunday to Friday, breakfasts, lunches and dinners (VAT included).
    * Participants from companies/industry will have an extra charge of 100 €.

You can check the list of Ambassador Institutions HERE. If you want your institution to become a Transmitting Science Ambassador please contact us at communication@transmittingscience.org.

Discounts (see Funding below) are not cumulative and apply only on the fee.

We offer the possibility of paying in two instalments (contact the course coordinators).


If you choose the Accommodation Package you will be hosted at Alexander Hotel in Gerakári village (take a look at the venue), in shared en-suite twin rooms, although you will only share rooms with other course participants. There is a possibility that the rooms will be mixed. If this is an inconvenience for you, and you would prefer to stay in an all-female or all-male room, please indicate so in the “Comments” field of the Registration form (below).

If you prefer to stay in a single en-suite room, you can do so with a supplementary charge.

The Accommodation Package includes transportation from the centre of Heraklion to the venue and back, at the start and end of the course, respectively. The trip takes around 1 hour 50 minutes each way. If you require transportation from or to Chania (the other city of Crete with an airport), please contact the course coordinator who can arrange it at an additional cost.

If you do not wish to take the Accommodation Package, you can find a few other options in the surrounding area. However, please be aware that access to and travelling around the area requires a private vehicle as public transport is scarce. Therefore, course participants will find choosing the Accommodation Package more convenient.

Alexander Hotel, Gerakári

Alexander Hotel 1

Alexander Hotel twin room

Alexander Hotel, Gerakári

Alexander Hotel 2

Alexander Hotel, Gerakári

Alexander Hotel 3


Course Schedule
  • Monday to Thursday:
    • 9:30 to 13:30 Lessons.
    • 13:30 to 15:00 Lunch (included).
    • 15:00 to 18:00 Lessons.
  • Friday:
    • 9:30 to 13:30 Lessons.
Accommodation Package Schedule
  • Sunday:
    • 18:30 Meeting at Heraklion Archaeological Museum to take the bus to Gerakári.
    • 20:15 Check-in at Alexander Hotel.
    • 20:45 Dinner.
  • Monday to Thursday:
    • 8:30 to 9:00 Breakfast.
    • 20:30 Dinner.
  • Friday:
    • 8:30 to 9:00 Breakfast.
    • 15:00 Meeting at Alexander Hotel to take the bus to Heraklion.
    • 16:45 Arrival at Heraklion Archaeological Museum.

The schedule is approximate; it is possible that the content of one day may run into the next and a working day may be longer than advertised.



Former participants will have a 5 % discount on the Course Fee.

Furthermore, a 20 % discount on the Course Fee is offered for members of some organizations (Organizations with discount). If you want to apply to this discount please indicate it in the Registration form (proof will be asked later).

Unemployed scientists living in Greece, as well as PhD students based in Greece without any grant or scholarship to develop their PhD, could benefit from a 40 % discount on the Course Fee. If you want to ask for this discount, please contact the course coordinator. That would apply for a maximum of 2 places and they will be covered by strict inscription order.

Discounts are not cumulative and apply only on the fee, not to Accommodation Package or other options.


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