USDA Plant Genetics Research Unit Projects

1. Genetic diversity of Apples, Grapes, and Tart Cherries.

Interested in biodiversity and conservation? Spend your summer doing research in the USDA Collection of Apples, Grapes, and Tart Cherries! With over 5,000 unique trees and vines, there’s no shortage of amazing things to observe. This project explores metabolite diversity that impact fruit quality and other physiological processes using liquid and gas chromatography. You’ll have the chance to develop lab and field skills, and how to manage data and work with genetic markers. Additionally, you’ll gain a greater appreciation for the role of diversity in agriculture!

Lab:70%, Field/greenhouse:30%

Mentors: Benjamin Gutierrez, Erin Galarneau, and Victoria Meakem


2. Do Plants Feel Stress?

‘Stress’ is an environmental factor that is potentially unfavorable to an organism. Plants do feel stress from the environment and other interactions, but their response to such stimuli is very different from our idea of stress. Environmental factors such as drought, extreme temperatures or a high concentration of salt in the soil disrupt their physiology.

USDA-ARS has some diverse varieties of grapes. If you are interested in finding out how abiotic stress affects diverse grapevine physiology, this project will provide you an opportunity to understand plant growth, defense, and other functional traits as they change under abiotic stress in grapes. You will have a chance to learn about the physiological and biochemical changes in grapevines under different stresses in artificial environment as well as in field and how plants develop resistance against different such stresses. Furthermore, you will gain experience in understanding underlying tolerance mechanisms and stress management skills.

Field/Greenhouse: 70%; Lab: 30%

Mentors: Lance Cadle-Davison, ARS-Grape Genetics Research Unit, Sehgal


3. Become a seed librarian!

The USDA Plant Genetic Resources Unit in Geneva NY maintains one of the largest seed collections in the world.

We keep almost 20 thousand different kinds of seeds (accessions)-- including the USDA hemp, tomato, brassica, asparagus, buckwheat, and pumpkin collections. We grow these accessions out to evaluate them for different traits while collecting their seeds.

Ultimately, those seeds will be distributed across the world to different plant researchers.

Scholars can work with these crops while learning about managing a seedbank —for example, projects could involve evaluating hemp for biofuel characteristics, determining the flavor compounds that give broccoli its flavor punch, or collaborating with a Cornell researcher to screen a collection for disease resistance.

The data collected from this project will help support crop genetic diversity and conservation, support scientific research, and made available as a public resource.

Lab 30%; Greenhouse 30%; Field 40%

Faculty: Stansell