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Quantum Forest

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Analyzing a simple experiment with heterogeneous variances using asreml, MCMCglmm and SAS

I was working with a small experiment which includes families from two Eucalyptus species and thought it would be nice to code a first analysis using alternative approaches. The experiment is a randomized complete block design, with species as fixed effect and family and block as a random effects, while the response variable is growth strain (in \( \mu \epsilon\)).

When looking at the trees one can see that the residual variances will be very different. In addition, the trees were growing in plastic bags laid out in rows (the blocks) and columns. Given that trees were growing in bags siting on flat terrain, most likely the row effects are zero.

When R, or any other language, is not enough

This post is tangential to R, although R has a fair share of the issues I mention here, which include research reproducibility, open source, paying for software, multiple languages, salt and pepper.

There is an increasing interest in the reproducibility of research. In many topics we face multiple, often conflicting claims and as researchers we value the ability to evaluate those claims, including repeating/reproducing research results. While I share the interest in reproducibility, some times I feel we are obsessing too much on only part of the research process: statistical analysis. Even here, many people focus not on the models per se, but only on the code for the analysis, which should only use tools that are free of charge.

Multisite, multivariate genetic analysis: simulation and analysis

The email wasn’t a challenge but a simple question: Is it possible to run a multivariate analysis in multiple sites? I was going to answer yes, of course, and leave it there but it would be a cruel, non-satisfying answer. We can get a better handle of the question if we use a simple example; let’s assume that we have two traits (call them tree stem diameter and stem density) assessed in two sites (localities).

Because this is genetics we have a family structure, let’s say half-siblings so we only half the mother in common, and we will ignore any experimental design features to keep things simple. We have 100 families, with 30 trees each, in sites A and B, for a total of 6,000 trees (100 x 30 x 2). The data could look like this:

Overlay of design matrices in genetic analysis

I’ve ignored my quantitative geneticist side of things for a while (at least in this blog) so this time I’ll cover some code I was exchanging with a couple of colleagues who work for other organizations.

It is common to use diallel mating designs in plant and tree breeding, where a small number of parents acts as both males and females. For example, with 5 parents we can have 25 crosses, including reciprocals and selfing (crossing an individual with itself). Decades ago this mating design was tricky to fit and, considering an experimental layout with randomized complete blocks, one would have something like y = mu + blocks + dads + mums + cross + error. In this model dads and mums were estimating a fraction of the additive genetic variance. With the advent of animal model BLUP, was possible to fit something like y = mu + blocks + individual (using a pedigree) + cross + error. Another less computationally demanding alternative (at least with unrelated parents) is to fit a parental model, overlaying the design matrices for parents with something like this y = mu + blocks + (dad + mum) + cross + error.

Split-plot 2: let’s throw in some spatial effects

Disappeared for a while collecting frequent flyer points. In the process I ‘discovered’ that I live in the middle of nowhere, as it took me 36 hours to reach my conference destination (Estoril, Portugal) through Christchurch, Sydney, Bangkok, Dubai, Madrid and Lisbon.

Where was I? Showing how split-plots look like under the bonnet (hood for you US readers). Yates presented a nice diagram of his oats data set in the paper, so we have the spatial location of each data point which permits us playing with within-trial spatial trends.

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