Aaron Sams, PhD


Aaron Sams, PhD

Aaron J. Sams, PhD is a Director of Research and Scientific Product Development at Embark. A broadly trained evolutionary biologist, he is passionate about working with Embark’s scientists to analyze genetic data from Embark’s customers to understand the distribution of genetic variation in canines and how genetic and environmental variation underpins disease in dogs.

Prior to joining Embark, his research applied computational methods to better understand the evolutionary dynamics of ancient human population admixture and the evolution of complex traits, such as immune-related disease in humans. He is thrilled to be applying those skills to advance our understanding of canine genomics and health and build useful products for Embark’s customers.

Dr. Sams is a graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and received both an MS and PhD in Biological Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Subsequently, he worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Biological Statistics and Computational Biology at Cornell University.

All work

Inbreeding, Genetic COI, and Why They Matter to Your Breeding Program
Genetic Health Education

Measuring Inbreeding and How Genetic COI Can Help Your Breeding Program


Learn about genetic COI (coefficient of inbreeding) and how it can be used to inform breeding decisions with Aaron Sams, PhD. Many factors are considered when choosing which dogs to use in breeding programs including conformation, temperament, genetic disease mutations, and much more. Assessing the impact of inbreeding is another factor to consider. In this...

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Published Research

Dog Breeding Guided by Small Genetic Panels Can Reduce Genetic Diversity


It is well-established that genetic diversity has been declining in many dog breeds over the past two centuries, as a result of strong selection on a number of specific traits, combined in some cases with reductions in breed population sizes at certain points in history as well as popular sire effects. This is not only...

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Close up of a lab technician's hands wearing blue latex gloves while holding and washing a thin glass slide known as a microarray.
How Dog DNA Testing Works

How DNA Genotyping Works


Occasionally, we get questions from customers curious about how their dog’s DNA is processed into the genotype data that we analyze to understand breed ancestry and health risks. Once we receive your dog’s cheek swab, the DNA contained in the sample is copied many times in a process called amplification. Next, all of those copies...

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embark relative finder
Breed Surprise

Why Mixed Breed Siblings May Not Look Exactly Alike


“Are these dogs really siblings? They look nothing alike.”  This is a common question people have after using our Relative Finder. After you’ve Embarked your pup, there is a chance that you’ll come across dogs who are very closely related to yours, but look very different.  We’ve written previously about how the breed(s) in your...

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Genetic Health Education

Breeding for the future: Why genome-wide diversity matters


Many dog breeders have reached out to us to ask “What makes Embark’s test better for maintaining diversity and lowering disease risk in my breed?” Specifically, they are often interested in how Embark compares to other diversity management products that use a very small number of genetic markers to make breeding recommendations. In short, you...

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shiba inu
How Dog DNA Testing Works

Inbreeding in Dogs Explained


When closely related dogs mate, it is defined as inbreeding. “Inbreeding is the mating of individuals or organisms that are genetically closely related, resulting in increased homozygosity and consequently an increase in the occurrence of recessive traits,” according to Nature. “This can lead to inbreeding depression: reduced biological fitness of the population.” In this video,...

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A Husky type dog with blue eyes in the snow.
Published Research

Embark Discovers Why Dogs Have Blue Eyes


At Embark, we are working to end preventable disease in dogs. In October 2018, we proudly announced the first step along that path to discovery: our first published scientific research! Embark scientists discovered why dogs have blue eyes. The genetics behind blue eyes in dogs In short, we discovered a genetic variant, specifically a duplication...

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dog illustrations
How Dog DNA Testing Works

A Tail of Two Breeds: How Dog DNA Diverges Over Time


At Embark, we often receive questions like this one: “How can you differentiate ancestry between closely related breeds?” For example, American Bulldogs and modern English Bulldogs are the descendants of working English Bulldogs that made their way to America with working-class immigrants. So, how can we tell the difference between the genetics of American Bulldogs...

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embark research
About Our Research

Embarking on Dog Ancestry Research


If you have Embarked your dog and opted to participate in scientific research, you’re officially a citizen scientist! On behalf of Embark, I want to say thanks for your contribution. In 2017, Embark presented some of the first research to come out of the data that you and others have given us. We were at...

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