Hobart and William Smith Colleges - HWS Grads Publish Chemical Ecology Research
The HWS Update
Liu Yuxi

HWS Grads Publish Chemical Ecology Research

Jonathan Thrall

Jonathan Thrall ’19

Three recent Hobart and William Smith graduates are co-authors on an article in the December 2019 issue of the Journal of Chemical Ecology, based on their summer research at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva.

The research, conducted by Jonathan Thrall ’19, Yuxi Liu ’18 and Sara Volo ’17 with AgriTech Senior Research Associate Dr. Charles Linn and graduate student Michael Wolfin, examines the relationship between the grape berry moth and the grape plant as a model to study how insects detect host plants over long distances.

Looking at “odor sources in the form of plant shoots, extracts of shoots, and synthetic blends,” the authors write, they discovered that female grape berry moths “flew upwind to host and non-host extracts and synthetic blends at similar levels, suggesting discrimination is not occurring at long distance from the plant. Further, females did not land on sources releasing plant extracts and synthetic blends, suggesting not all landing cues were present. Additionally, mated and unmated moths displayed similar levels of upwind flight responses to all odor sources, supporting the idea that plant volatiles are not functioning solely as ovipositional cues.”

Sara Volo

Sara Volo ’17

Ultimately, they explain, the study supported a new hypothesis that female grape berry moths “are using volatile blends to locate a favorable habitat rather than a specific host plant, and that discrimination is occurring within the habitat, or even post-landing.”

The Colleges have had a longstanding relationship with Cornell AgriTech, which “has been especially exciting for my research, going back to my first student in 1982,” says Linn.

HWS Associate Professor of Biology Patricia Mowery, who coordinates student placements at AgriTech, notes that the faculty mentors there “provide amazing research experiences for our students. Our students are able to work with graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and internationally recognized researchers while performing research that results in high-quality publications. The research experiences are transformative.”

The research was supported by the HWS Provost’s Office and the Rickey Summer Research Scholarship, which since 2009 has funded the research of numerous HWS students at AgriTech.

The top photo features Yuxi Liu ’18. 

Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.