Working to Improve Pest Management – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Working to Improve Pest Management

Yanli Guo ‘12 is spending her second summer continuing research on Heliothis virescens, also known as the tobacco budworm. She is conducting her research under the guidance of Associate Professor of Biology Kristy Kenyon, in conjunction with Cornell University scientists who work at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY.

The tobacco budworm is a major pest species in agriculture, and pest management has been a significant focus of much research. To this end, scientists have sought to understand how Heliothine moths such as H. virescens utilize sex pheromones for mating behaviors. Male moths have specialized cells (sensilla) located within their antenna that detect sex pheromones released by females.  

The goal of Guo’s research is to understand how moth embryos build antennae and generate the specialized cells needed for pheromone detection. Adult antennae develop from embryonic structures known as antennal imaginal discs. Guo’s research seeks to characterize the cellular and molecular changes that occur within imaginal disc tissue during larvae and pupae stages of Heliothis virescens embryogenesis. A major effect of her research project is to identify changes in gene activity as embryonic cells become specialized for their adult functions. Ultimately, this research will provide fundamental insights into the development of the olfactory system of Heliothis virescens and generate useful information for better pest management practices.

“Through the laboratory work, I have developed a more complete perspective of the way that biologists study nature and the ability of research to impact the scientific community. I will continue this research through my remaining time at HWS and results will be incorporated into my honor’s thesis in my senior year,” said Guo.

Guo, a rising senior, is a biochemistry major. She is a member of the William Smith Laurel Honor Society, serves as a Resident Assistant, and has served as a Teaching Assistant and Research Assistant at William Smith.