Grape and wine student brings international research award to Brock for the first time

Brock University master’s student Hannah Charnock has received international recognition for her grape and wine research.

Charnock was awarded third place in the American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV)’s 2020 Best Student Video Presentation Awards. This marks the first time someone from Brock has ever received the award. Charnock was also this year’s only Canadian recipient and is one of only three from a Canadian university to have won in the contest’s history.

“I’m very grateful to have received this award as it helps me to understand the value of my thesis research to the broader wine industry and recognizes the efforts that we have put into this research,” she says. “It’s also very exciting to be a part of Brock’s legacy in ASEV.”

ASEV is an internationally regarded scientific wine organization, and selected graduate students are recognized with this award each year at its National Conference. Due to COVID-19, the competition was unable to be held in person this year and shifted to a video competition instead.

Charnock’s video, titled Impact of Production Method on Metal Content in Sparkling Wines, highlighted her current thesis research on the Maillard reaction. Focusing on the Niagara region, the goal of this portion of her research is to establish the metal ion composition of commercially available sparkling wine. Metals in wine play important roles in flavour, stability and fermentation, and can be used as a regional “signature” based on the metals originating in the vineyard soil. This is part of a larger Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)-funded research program.

Wendy Ward, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, offered her congratulations for Charnock’s achievement.

“We are so proud of Hannah for using the recent COVID-19 quarantine to build new skills and find ways to share her research,” she says. “Hannah’s project is a shining example of the high quality of research being conducted by our graduate students. That this research can benefit many stakeholders in the Niagara region and beyond is also impressive.”

Charnock is an MSc candidate in Biological Sciences and is completing her research under the supervision of grape and wine experts at Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institutive (CCOVI). Belinda Kemp, CCOVI Senior Oenologist and adjunct professor in Biological Sciences, and Gary Pickering, CCOVI Researcher and Professor of Biological Sciences and Psychology, are her co-supervisors.

“We are extremely proud of Hannah’s achievement,” says Kemp. “She put so much work into learning new skills and much thought into the audience she was presenting her research results to.”

Charnock’s ability to remotely convey her research in an accessible and interesting format also highlights opportunities to better use video for future elements of the research process, Kemp added.

Charnock welcomed the opportunity adapt to changing times and share her work in a new way—while also learning to use video editing software for the very first time.

“This competition facilitated an opportunity to present my research, learn a new medium, and build conference presentation experience,” she says. “I learned valuable skills about how to improve the accessibility of conference presentations and scientific research as a whole—a lesson that I am hopeful will be a positive outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially within academia.”

Charnock hopes she will be able to attend the conference in person next year, however, and looks forward to presenting more of her findings to an international audience.

“The recognition of this research is so rewarding, and I hope that it encourages the grape and wine industry to keep an eye out for future publications from our lab group,” she says.

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