Wednesday, March 18, 2009

2009 Family Tree DNA Conference

2009 Family Tree DNA Conference

Two day conference for FTDNA Project Admins
March 14th & 15th, 2009
News items from the conference in Houston

This conference is usually held for FTDNA Project Administrators (such as myself). I didn't attend for a couple of reasons, nor have I ever attended previous conferences.

However, there were some interesting items in Vincent's Twitter area. The ones that caught my eye were the presentations from Michael Hammer on phylogenetic tree models, and the NIST material. The NIST material suggests that I need to check my "ft2dna" program for changes to the model on several DYS values.) Also,
two items that caught my eye are a new phylogenetic tree widget and National Genographic should end by 2011. (I am curious to see if this new tree widget is for individual Project use.)

Naturally, I have an interest in building phylogenetic trees (so that HAM genealogists can understand TMRCA better). That's because when records have been destroyed, TMRCA is a great tool for estimating when and where you should be looking for the more traditional genealogy evidence.

Just this past week, it had been suggested to me that I learn more about "alpha" with regard to my work on building phylogenetic trees.

"Alpha" is a term used along with another term, "Gamma." That term "alpha" was mentioned in Vincent's Twitter area along with Michael Hammer's presentation on phylogenetic trees. Hammer was talking about obtaining a more accurate TMRCA. To me, that's exciting news.

I suspect I will be learning more about alpha. I have run the "TreePuzzle" program for HAM DNA Group #1, and using the defaults, it tells me that HAM DNA Group #1 has a "transition/transversion" ratio of 2.18 and an "alpha" of 0.03. I can use that information in DNAML in order to obtain another tree view for HAM DNA Group #1.

The problem for most DNA Project Administrators is that many of these programs requires data in ATGC format. (FTDNA gives the data in numbers, or a count of the repeats of letters.)

However, I suspect that Hammer is more concerned with the traditional phylogenetic tree that FTDNA produces, a phylogenetic tree of all haplotype groups in the numerous FTDNA Projects. But, Hammer does have a call out for help from Project Administrators who have tested a large number of related families in their Project.

The PHYLIP package has several models to choose from such as neighbor, F84, Kimura, Jukes, LogDet, within his programs. You probably already know that I currently use his "Kitsch" program. That PHYLIP package also contains the maximum likelihood programs "DNAML" and "DNAMLK." There is also the parsimony program "DNAPARS." It stands to reason that maximum likelihood programs should deliver better phylogenetic charts than the parsimony programs due to the nature of how they work.

Anyways, great set of tools for Genetic Genealogists, if you're inclined toward the technical side.

I suspect that I will also be looking out for a program that can help me with Watkin's Gemetric model. There are many Geneticists named Watkins, and no note from ISOGG on which Watkins Vincent is referring to. Without further info, I would guess that Vincent might be referring to Norman E. Watkins.

It looks like the conference mostly followed the same agenda that FTDNA has posted on their web site (I found it through news from October, 2008 - I believe it was delayed due to hurricane Ike.):

Their press release is in PDF form at their web site:

(The title of the press release has the 2009 date.)

Twitter is fairly cryptic when you are limited to 140 characters, so I would guess there are a number of folks who may not understand everything that Vincent posted there.

Vincent kept notes on items of interest from the conference in Houston, which occurred March 14th and 15th, 2009.
Vincent's Twitter area is located at:

Other notes of interest:

Coming soon - a phylogenetic tree widget

FTDNA also announced that they will be returning to Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) next year in 2010.
FTDNA will have a booth at "The Gathering" in Scotland in July, 2009!

Roberta Estes and Terry Barton gave terrific ISOGG workshop presentations!

To post comments, click on the title and scroll to the bottom.


Odon said...

After this post, I got an email through the ISOGG email list (from Stephen Danko) that Michael Hammer was referring to Joseph C. Watkins, Dept. of Mathematics, U. of Arizona. Refer to this article:

"Microsatellite Evolution: Markov Transitions Functions for a Suite of Models" (2007)

Odon said...

Stephen Danko has written more detail about the 2009 FTDNA conference at his blog: