Heredity: Passing Genes from Parent to Child
Presenter: Jessica Hekman, DVM, MS
Breed a Labrador retriever to a poodle and you get a labradoodle. But breed two labradoodles together and you get
– well, some dogs that look pretty different from their doodle parents! Why do they look so different? Why
do traits sometimes show up in animals that aren't apparent in their parents at all? What does it mean for a gene
to have “dominant” and “recessive” versions and how do the different versions interact
with each other?
In this class, you will learn about how genetic material is inherited. We’ll start by learning about how cells
mix genes from mom and dad to pass on to the offspring. We’ll study dominant and recessive traits and learn
how they interact with each other with sometimes surprising results. We’ll compare the early history of the
study of heredity with our perspective today and tackle the question of how much of a complex trait, like behavior,
is inherited and how much is due to the individual's upbringing.
If you want to take a course that’s not in the old, standard, lecture format, this might be the class for
you. Dr. Hekman will collect readable, engaging materials from scientists and science journalists explaining each
week’s topics, including both links to short and simple definitions for each topic and more in-depth pieces
about their importance. She also provides a short lecture component that ties it all together and, whenever possible,
applies the information to animal behavior.
This is a class in heredity. Specifically, the class will cover:
- Mendelian genetics versus complex trait genetics
- defining and studying heritability
- dominant versus recessive versions of genes
Class schedule: This class is a self-study course and may be started any time a student signs on
to it. Students will be expected to complete the assignments within six months of their sign-on date.
Prerequisites: This class presumes no previous knowledge of genetics. However, the curriculum design
is intended to be flexible and to support students learning at different levels.
Dr. Hekman's classes are not lecture-based. She provides a few short mini-lectures every week to give an overview
of the material, but the bulk of your learning will be from reading.
||Listen to lectures
Read weekly assignments
||6 (valid for IAABC, CCPDT and KPA)
Online Course Cancellation Policy:
- Courses cannot be refunded once purchased.
About the Presenter
Jessica is a veterinarian currently pursuing a PhD in genetics. After eleven years working as a computer programmer,
she decided to go back to school to research the causes of behavior problems in dogs. She received her veterinary
degree from the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts, where she also received a Master's
degree for her work on stress behaviors in hospitalized dogs. After graduation, she completed a year-long internship
specializing in shelter medicine at the University of Florida Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program. She is now enrolled
in a PhD program in genetics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her lab studies a group of foxes (often
known as the "Siberian silver foxes") which have been bred over many generations to be friendly to humans. Her
ultimate goal is to find genetic causes of fearfulness in dogs, to work with behaviorally challenged shelter dogs,
and to help people better understand the science behind dog behavior.
She lives in Urbana, Illinois with her husband and two dogs. You can follow her on Twitter @dogzombieblog or read
her blog at
For questions email