Venus flytrap

Emma Grassi Preps for New Research Experience

Emma Grassi studied the effect of sound frequencies on the Venus flytrap.

August 28, 2017

Emma Grassi has many academic interests. The incoming Huntington High School junior has excelled in her studies, earning a spot on the High Honor Roll. Her all-around excellence extends to the science research program. She planning a project for the new school year now.

Ms. Grassi keeps herself busy. She’s one of the Blue Devil varsity tennis team’s top players. The teenager is also active with the English Honor Society and the environmental club and the high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. She’s even travelled internationally, trekking through enchanted Ireland.

The science research program provided Ms. Grassi with an opportunity to develop an original project. “The course is structured so that students learn research methodologies through literature reviews and laboratory experiences,” according to a program overview. “We offer an exemplary learning experience that enhances the student’s knowledge, skills, attitudes and values.”

Emma Grassi
Huntington junior
Emma Grassi.

Ms. Grassi studied the effect of sound frequencies on Dionaea muscipula or in layman’s terms, the Venus flytrap. It’s a carnivorous plant that’s native to the East Coast’s subtropical wetlands in North Carolina and South Carolina. They are grown in greenhouses today.

“The diet of the Venus flytrap that is native to South Carolina is composed mainly of bees,” according to an abstract of Ms. Grassi’s project. “This is now becoming an issue because of the recent outbreak of Zika virus. Zika affects both bees and Venus flytraps due to mass spraying of the pesticide Naled. Naled is used to combat mosquitoes carrying the virus, but unfortunately it has affected biodiversity be endangering the population of bees.”

Ms. Grassi studied whether the Venus flytrap can “recognize and respond to the frequency of bees” to gain more of an understanding of the plant’s reliance on the insect.

“The simulation of the frequency of bees (100-300 Hz) did not trigger a response from the Venus flytrap,” states the project abstract. “This demonstrates that the pesticide Naled will not have a large effect on the plant’s population. When the sound frequency of 100 Hz was played, the Venus flytrap was not triggered and the lobes did not move from their convex state. It continued to lack a response even at the higher frequencies of 200 Hz and 300 Hz.”

Ms. Grassi concluded that “sound frequencies simulating a bee did not trigger any response in the Venus fly trap, which means the plant didn’t interpret the sound frequencies played as a signal for potential prey.”

A thoughtful and well-spoken young woman, Ms. Grassi has gained the respect of Huntington High School teachers. “She has a great attitude and energy,” said social studies teacher Camille Tedeschi, who had the teenager in classes during her freshman and sophomore years.

Ms. Grassi will make her season debut on the tennis court when Huntington plays its first match of the season on Thursday at Ross School in East Hampton.