Please note: due to COVID-19, orders and sample kits processing are delayed

Darwin’s Ark Initiative

Darwins’ Ark is a revolutionary, collaborative scientific initiative. We are bringing together the best minds in genetics, medicine and behavior – including pet owners, who know their pets better than any scientist ever could!

Through this partnership of citizen science, cutting edge technology and academic expertise, we’re discovering a far richer and more complete understanding of our world.

Teams from the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants are working with pet owners to understand the interaction of genetics and environment, and work toward bettering the lives of people and pets.


The “Science” of Citizen Science

Darwin’s Ark lets ordinary citizens become scientific partners. Our projects, such as Darwin’s Dogs, combine genetics and behavior to advance the understanding of complex diseases.

We’re a non-profit that subscribes to the open science model. This means we do not own and will never sell your pet’s data. You contribute to an open source database and we share all the new discoveries we find freely with you and researchers around the world. Together we can advance health care for pets and their humans. For details on our process, see our Frequently Asked Questions.



Dog owners know their dogs. We’re asking dog owners to contribute their knowledge of their pets to help us learn more about how genetics influence health and behavior. Join us on this exciting journey!


Ticks are a serious health issue for pets and people alike. By studying the ticks participants send in, we’re learning about the diseases and discovering possible remedies and solutions to this modern-day scourge.


Cats have been our companions for centuries, yet we’ve only just begun to unravel (like a ball of yarn!) the complex and diverse genetics that contribute to their health and behavior. We’ll need cat owners’ understanding and expertise to launch this project soon! Join the mailing list below.


We’re studying everything from behavior to food allergies. Our research depends on the support of our partner organizations.



Elinor K. Karlsson

Founder, Chief Scientist

A geneticist who has shaped the public’s understanding of behavior and disease genetics, Elinor received her Ph.D. in bioinformatics from Boston University, conducted her postdoc at Harvard University, and is currently a professor at University of Massachusetts Medical School, as well as the Director of Vertebrate Genomics at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Elinor founded Darwin’s Ark based on the fact that millions of animals share the same environment with people, who are expert observers of their pet’s behavior and health. Combining her deep expertise in genomics with “big data” from citizen scientists, Elinor hopes to revolutionize our understanding of complex genetics to improve human and animal health.


Charlie Lieu

Executive Director

Passionate about driving positive changes in the world, Charlie’s body of work focuses on advancing scientific and social good. With more than two decades of experience in business, science, and engineering, she brings deep analytics to strategic planning and execution, as well as a long track record of successfully translating ambitious ideas into reality. A trained bioinformatician and an original member of the human genome project, Charlie received her Master’s in engineering from MIT and an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Business. She is heading up Darwin’s Ark Foundation, the non-profit formed to enable the scientific vision of the Darwin’s Ark Initiative.


Marjie Alonso

Board Member

A certified trainer and behavior consultant, Marjie is a leading voice in the animal behavior world and holds numerous professional designations including CDBC, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP. She is the Executive Director of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), which provides behavior input and expertise to people all over the world. The organization is a strong proponent of scientific understanding and exploration of animal behavior, and of varied disciplines working together in furtherance of understanding and learning.


Joe Pickrell

Board Member

A renowned statistical geneticist who has published numerous scientific papers in the most prestigious journals like Nature, Science, Nature Genetics, and PNAS, Joe is the CEO and co-founder of Gencove, a company focused on delivering powerful, cost-efficient sequencing. He holds a Ph.D. in human genetics from the University of Chicago and completed his postdoctoral work at Harvard Medical School. Prior to Gencove, Joe was a founding core member of the New York Genome Center and held a joint appointment at Columbia University.



Gaurav Chauhan


Gaurav’s research is focused on genomic epidemiology. At Darwin’s Ark, he is developing high throughput methods to detect tickborne pathogens and ways to block disease transmission through the study of tick microbiome. His past research projects include vaccine development against valley fever, validation of novel therapeutic targets and identification of the mechanism of resistance in targeted therapies of breast cancer.


Diane Genereux


Diane is focused on how plants and animals receive and store information about their environments. After obtaining her Ph.D. in mathematical biology, she studied genetics, epigenetics, and molecular biology of developmental disorders of the human nervous system, including fragile X syndrome. Here at Darwin’s Ark, Diane’s focus is on understanding the timing and features of the critical period of socialization, during which companion animals form social bonds with humans.


Jessica Hekman


Jessica is a veterinarian focused on the effects of genetics and environment in the development of dog personalities. She received her DVM/MS from Tufts and her Ph.D. in genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she studied stress-related tissue gene expression in foxes. Jessica currently works on the Working Dog Project, which investigates the genomic underpinnings of success as a working dog.


Jeremy Johnson

Project Manager

Jeremy came to academic research from the pharmaceutical world and initially focused on improving the dog genome assembly. However, his outgoing personality and collaborative attitude quickly found him coordinating technology and communication with both internal team members and external collaborators. Jeremy has worked on vertebrate genome projects for over a decade, including the wolf, horse, anolis, coelacanth and stickleback.


Michele Koltookian


Michele has spent the last decade doing wet lab work and project coordination for many dog disease projects. She is currently developing strategies for efficient mapping of disease loci across different species by formulating protocols using gene sequences of zoo animals. Michele is also responsible for sample processing for multiple projects across Darwin’s Ark, as well as helps facilitate and answer questions from the Darwin’s Dogs project.


Shirley Xue Li


Shirley is fascinated by the power of computational methods to solve biomedical problems and is currently focused on computational biology analysis in the genetics of complex disease at Darwin’s Ark. Shirley currently works on the Cholera Project in which she is applying both existing and innovative novel mathematical methods designed to identify the host genetic risk to cholera susceptibility and other complex disease or traits.


Brittney Logan

Project Manager

Brittney’s goal is to help people live better lives with their four-legged friends. To do so, she studied animal behavior and worked with service dogs to arm herself with hands-on experience on advanced training methods. At Darwin’s Ark, Brittney manages Darwin’s Dogs and Working Dog projects. She also assists with research in the Wolf Hybrid project and works related to critical periods of socialization between dogs and wolves.


Kathryn Lord


Kathryn is interested in how changes in developmental timing impact adaptive behavior evolution, and currently focuses on the genetics driving differences in critical periods of socialization between dogs and wolves. She started working with dogs in an attempt to improve rearing practices for service dogs but expanded to include wolves for her Ph.D. in organismic and evolutionary biology. Kathryn heads up the Wolf Hybrid Project and helps with the behavioral aspects of projects at Darwin’s Ark.


Kate Megquier


Kate is a veterinarian studying the genomics of cancers in dogs in order to improve both animal and human health. At Darwin’s Ark, her focus is on hemangiosarcoma, a common canine cancer that is a natural model for human angiosarcoma. Kate received a combined DVM and Master’s degree in comparative biomedical sciences from Tufts University and went on to earn her Ph.D. in Medical Genetics from Uppsala University.


Kathleen Morrill


Kathleen is committed to bridging genomics and neuroscience by looking at how genetics contribute to behavioral differences and disorders. Her past research spanned diverse topics from the genetic diversity of marine eelgrass to the role of “jumping genes” in neurodegeneration. Kathleen currently focuses on determining genetic differences and their effects on various regions and cells of the brain, as well as the relevance of these differences in psychiatric disorders.


Ross Swofford


Ross’s research interest is in the processes of evolution and domestication, and how the resulting selective pressures contribute to diseases susceptibility. A trained biochemist and molecular biologist, Ross has worked on canine disease genetics with an emphasis on cancer and currently provides wet-lab support to various projects related to Darwin’s Ark. He is pursuing postgraduate work in bioinformatics, with the aim of being able to contribute both in the lab and in the analysis.


Jason Turner-Maier

Computational Biologist

Jason has been involved in a wide variety of projects, ranging from the investigation of patterns of somatic mutation in canine lymphoma to annotation of the Weddell seal genome, to clustering ferret samples for genetic relatedness. Jason received his Master’s degree in Biomedical Informatics from Stanford University and typically contributes to pipeline development, analysis design and implementation, computational resource management, and computational instruction.



Jesse McClure


Hyun Ji Noh


Linda Boettger