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Students Try their Hand at Research and Extension

Student Focus

By Andrea Elmore

While many undergraduate Viticulture and Enology students leave Cornell for winery internships in the summer, two delved into research and extension projects at Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. Lucas Hartman '14 and Melissa Aellen '13 worked with Cornell viticulture and enology faculty members on projects from tendril distribution to "mousy" taint.

Lucas Hartman
Lucas Hartman (center), recipient of the 2012 Shaulis Summer Scholarship, shown with grape physiologist Alan Lakso (left), and Horticulture Department Associate Chair Susan Brown (right).

Lucas Hartman, recipient of the 2012 Nelson J. Shaulis Fund for the Advancement of Viticulture Summer Research Scholarship Award, worked with three horticulture faculty this summer on several diverse research projects.

"I was interested in seeing how different people approach research, and this was a great opportunity for me to not only be in the lab, but to also be in the vineyard and greenhouse," said Hartman.

His main project was studying the genetics of grapevine tendril distribution patterns—a key step in increasing grapevine yields--with Peter Cousins and Jason Londo at Geneva's USDA-Agricultural Research Service Grape Genetics Research Unit.

"Faced with a genuine jungle of shoots, leaves, and tendrils, Luke patiently separated hundreds of vines and made observations on thousands of nodes," said Cousins. "His great diligence and care in data collection and analysis was the key to successfully tackling this project."

Hartman also worked on canopy analysis with horticulture faculty Justine Vanden-Heuvel in Noiret and Alan Lakso on Riesling. Hartman will carry several of these projects over into the fall semester.

"One thing that all of the faculty taught me is to never tie myself down to one project and to go beyond what I knew--and was comfortable with--in June," he said.

Melissa Aellan
Melissa Aellan '13 worked on extension projects with extension enology associate Chris Gerling.

Melissa Aellen experimented not with grapevines but with extension this summer, working with enology research associate Chris Gerling in the Cornell Enology Extension Lab.

"Melissa is fearless.  We had some project plans for her that were well-defined and others that less so," said Gerling. "She happily dealt with everything we threw her way."

In the lab, she worked on several projects including cultivating the bacteria that is responsible for "mousy" taint in cider and wine production and preparing samples of faulty wines for demonstrations and short courses.

She participated in enology program outreach, presenting talks during Cornell's Wine Analysis short course and the American Wine Society's New York Home Wine Seminar. She also authored an introductory publication about the creation of and regulations for kombucha, a fermented tea beverage gaining popularity as a health drink.

Andrea Elmore is undergraduate coordinator for the Viticulture Enology program housed in the food science department at Cornell.