Grape genetics expert Dr. Peter Cousins of Cornell University will deliver a talk titled “The Birds, The Bees, and the Winemakers: A Botanical Odyssey in Grape Form and Function” at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7 in the Sanford Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library, as this year’s annual Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecture.
Sponsored by the Geneva chapter of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society, Cousins’ lecture will cover natural and selected variation in grapevines, the adaptation of grapevines to their environment, and their interaction with humans. Additionally, he will go into such topics as growing a seedless grape from a seed, why the biggest grapes are the most aromatic, and why grapevines show such broad variation in fruit color, and leaf shape and color.
Cousins is a grape rootstock breeder and geneticist with the USDA-ARS, based at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. He grew up on his family’s vegetable farm east of Ceres in California’s Central Valley, and studied plant science at Modesto Junior College, receiving a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Stanford University.
His dissertation research in genetics at the University of California, Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology examined the inheritance of nematode resistance in grape rootstocks and the evolution of Vitis champinii, a wild grape. Cousins has been with the USDA since November 1999. The grape rootstock research program he leads focuses on the breeding, introduction, and evaluation of rootstocks for viticulture nationwide, with a particular emphasis on pest and disease resistance.