Thursday, 16 January 2020

Mike Sager - Speaker Profile

Mike Sager
Title of Talk: The Tree of Mankind

Brief Biography: 
  • BS Biology and MS Zoology (Texas Tech University) 
  • Phylogenetics Analyst with FTDNA
  • My Master’s Thesis centered around the phylogenetics of Crocodilian mitochondria.

What do you do as a Day Job? 

Most of my work focuses on the construction of FTDNAs rapidly growing Y chromosome haplotree. My other duties include panel/primer design, BigY technical support and other Y chromosome product result analysis.

How did you get into genetic genealogy? 

During my time at University I focused my studies around phylogenetics. My master’s thesis studied the amount of mitochondrial variation among various populations of African Dwarf Crocodiles (Osteolaemus tetraspis) throughout the western coast of Africa. 

Shortly after graduating I took a position with FamilyTreeDNA working on the emerging SNP Pack pipeline. At this point in time (early 2015) BigY was still relatively new to the community and I do not believe anyone really knew what was in store. 

At a young age I gravitated towards puzzles, patterns and numbers. I think these interests were what really got me hooked on YDNA. Piecing together a Tree of Mankind from various testing platforms was intriguing. My interest in YDNA piqued around this time when my results from the National Genographic Project came through. I really wanted to see where I fit in this tree. I found myself starting to venture more into BigY analysis in an effort to further the SNP pack products and keep them relevant. This grew over time to where I am today – looking at NGS results almost exclusively for the past several years. 

My interest has not waned with this saturation, but in fact has grown. I have built the largest Y chromosome haplotree in existence – and it’s a fascinating scenario where a consumer-based company outpaces academia. 

Even though I have analyzed ~40,000 BigYs, the penetration into the worlds population is extremely shallow! As a result of this, there are still fascinating new results coming in with each batch – new stories being told and new lines being documented.

What will you be talking about? 

We will explore the Y chromosome haplotree in a variety of ways; from how the tree is built to tips and tricks for understanding and interpreting, and how new samples are incorporated to some of the more notable results FTDNA has produced.  

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