A fourth-year thesis student in Brock University’s Oenology and Viticulture (OEVI) program has received industry recognition for her cutting-edge grapevine virus research.
Nadia Skorupski won Best Student Viticulture Poster in a virtual presentation at the internationally regarded American Society of Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) – Eastern Section (ASEV-ES) conference earlier this month.
Her poster, titled “Impact of solo and coinfections of grapevine red blotch and grapevine leafroll associated virus-3 on fruit quality,” was the only undergraduate submission at this year’s conference, winning out against students at both the master’s and PhD levels.
“Presenting to an audience full of scientists, grad students and industry professionals can be intimidating, but I kept reminding myself that everyone is there with a collective purpose, to share new ideas and propel the industry forward,” she says of the experience. “More than anything, this recognition means I was able to convey the research we’re conducting at Brock University and hopefully get people excited about it.”
Skorupski’s thesis research examines the impact that grapevine red blotch (GRBV) and grapevine leafroll associated virus-3 (GRLaV) have on fruit quality, both individually and when the grapevine is infected with both simultaneously.
Grape growers currently lose an estimated $23 million per year due to grapevine virus infections, making research in this area vitally important for ensuring the sustainability of the $9-billion Canadian grape and wine industry.
“This is, to my knowledge, one of the first investigations looking at the effects of co-viral infections on fruit quality, which makes the work innovative,” Skorupski says. “Coming from a history of winemaking, it is fascinating to quantify the effects of grapevine viruses (previously anecdotally observed) and extrapolate how these viruses are affecting quality of wine production.”
She is conducting this work under the co-supervision of Brock adjunct Professors Wendy McFadden-Smith and Belinda Kemp. McFadden-Smith is also a Tender Fruit and Grape IPM Specialist at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), and Kemp is the Senior Scientist, Oenology, at Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI).
The research is a partnership with OMAFRA, the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network (CGCN), Ontario Grape and Wine Research Inc. (OGWRI), and several grower cooperators.
“We are so proud of the work Nadia has done to bring visibility to this innovative research and its important applications to our industry,” says McFadden-Smith. “Not only has no one looked at the combined effects of infection with these two viruses before, but also there have been no reports of effects of GRBV on hybrids or on the effects of virus infection on hydroxycinnamic acid compounds in white varieties, and very little research overall on these viruses under cool climate conditions like Ontario.”
Kemp adds: “This is an amazing, massive achievement for an undergraduate student during her Bachelor of Science; she should be very proud, as this is quite incredible.”
While the research speaks for itself, Skorupski says it is also important to consider visual appeal when completing an academic poster to ensure the work is showcased as effectively as possible.
“When you only have a limited time to convey a message,” she explains, “attractive imagery and infographics will set you apart.”
Skorupski’s use of the BioRender program to design her poster gave it a “very professional appearance,” says McFadden-Smith, adding that the inclusion of a QR code for accessing additional information “was also very innovative.”
The collegiality within her department and at CCOVI was also an important part of her success, Skorupski says.
“I am so grateful to my colleagues who helped me navigate this new terrain and kept reminding me to ‘honour the research’ and represent it in a way that I was proud of,” Skorupski says. “Outside of my advisors, Dr. Wendy McFadden-Smith and Dr. Belinda Kemp, I’m grateful for the feedback and contribution of (fellow Brock students) Leah De Felice Renton and Hannah Charnock.”