The Testing of Spatial Structure Methods (TOSSM) project is a long-term research project aimed at testing the performance of different analytical methods of detecting population spatial structure from genetic data. Advancing our ability to detect population structure using genetic data has been identified as a research priority for both the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC SC) and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Though a number of analytical techniques are available that use genetic data to address population structure questions, none have been thoroughly tested to quantify their performance in a conservation and management context.
To address this lack of reliable performance tests, NMFS and the IWC SC jointly initiated the TOSSM project, the purpose of which is to design and conduct a large, iterative performance-testing study.
The TOSSM project has been developed through a series of workshops and IWC SC meetings. Documents produced for these meetings and workshops are helpful in understanding the history and objective of the TOSSM project.
A cornerstone of the TOSSM project has been the production of a set of simulated populations on which genetic analysis methods can be tested. Datasets representing these populations—and a handbook detailing how the datasets were generated—are available for TOSSM users.
Another important facet of the TOSSM project has been the production of computer functions that assist in testing genetic analysis methods. The TOSSM package, written in the ‘R’ language, is designed to test the utility of these analytical methods.