Liu ’18 Seeks Solutions to Pesky Moth – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Liu ’18 Seeks Solutions to Pesky Moth

In her summer internship with New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES), Yuxi Liu ’18 is working with Cornell University entomologists to better understand the Grape Berry Moth (GBM), a crop-damaging pest, especially in wine regions like the Finger Lakes.

Working with NYSAES Senior Research Associate Charles Linn and his graduate student collaborator Michael Wolfin, Liu’s research looks at two aspects of the GBM’s behavior. Liu is being funded by the Brenda and Dave Rickey Foundation. Brenda and Dave Rickey, a native of Geneva, established the Foundation as one of several means of supporting the Geneva community. Since 2009, the Rickey Foundation has helped fund HWS student research at NYSAES.

The first focuses on how the female GBMs respond to their host plants in the controlled environment of a flight tunnel. “We use dogwood and grape leaves as plant sources in the flight tunnel and record the behaviors of GBM,” says Liu, noting that “because GBM is a specialist who only lays eggs on grape plants,” it is essential to know what lies behind their plant preference.

The second aspect of the project focuses on “the identification and evaluation of grape shoot volatiles attractive to female GBM.” To accomplish this, Liu explains, the team sterilizes the grape leaves to remove microbes and then compares the results to a profile of unsterilized grape leaves, using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS), a chemical analysis technique.

“The most exciting and also challenging part in the project is analyzing the GCMS profile,” says Liu, who is new to the “amazing and interesting” technique.

A biochemistry major, Liu has developed research and data analysis skills during courses on cell biology, biostatistics, and organic chemistry. Her research this summer at the NYSAES, represents a chance to meet new people, explore new kinds of projects and use new technology, she says, noting that the professors and technicians at NYSAES are warm and “very willing to teach me and help me.”

For many years, HWS students like Liu have collaborated with Cornell researchers at the Geneva-based NYSAES. Through innovative research, education and extension programs, the NYSAES seeks to advance a sustainable agriculture and food system that will improve human health, protect the environment and support the economic development that is needed to address state and global needs.

Over the years, HWS students have participated in summer or academic-year research at NYSAES, which often fulfills course credit for independent studies, Honors work or semester-long research projects. Students also may receive monetary compensation for such research work.