New CCOVI appointments aim to address industry needs

With challenges faced by the grape growing community in mind, Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) has appointed two new members to its team of scientists.

After a comprehensive global search for the top candidates, Malkie Spodek will join the Institute as Scientist in Entomology and Jennifer Kelly (PhD ’19) will take on the role of Scientist in Oenology effective Monday, May 1.

Spodek is a Hemipteran specialist, which includes scale insects, psyllids, whiteflies, aphids, cicadas and leafhoppers, many of which are important agricultural pests. Her appointment as the Institute’s first entomologist underscores CCOVI’s strong connection to the grape growing community, as the position was established in response to challenges identified by industry and the need for a comprehensive research program dedicated to vineyard pests.

In addition to her extensive background in identifying insects that are inadvertently imported with agriculture produce, Spodek brings hands-on experience working directly with farmers to address their pest challenges. She has also been involved in several biocontrol projects, including using birds to manage insect pests, and has discovered and described several insect species new to science.

Prior to joining CCOVI, Spodek spent five years as a research entomologist with Southern Arava R&D, where she focused on finding sustainable pest management solutions for the agricultural needs of the Arava region in Israel.

Her experience running workshops and lecturing on agriculture topics such as plant pests, plant diseases and biological pest control will be invaluable to the Institute’s pursuit to advance the Canadian grape and wine industry through knowledge and technology transfer, CCOVI Director Debbie Inglis said.

“I am excited about this opportunity to work with grape growers in the wine region of Ontario and to apply my international experience to develop research programs that will build on current pest management practices,” said Spodek.

Meanwhile, Kelly brings a unique perspective to CCOVI’s oenologist position, as she has worked in the grape and wine industry for more than a decade in both cellars and an academic capacity, with the majority of that time focused on research that sought to improve the quality of Ontario wine and address specific industry challenges.

Before completing her PhD at Brock, Kelly worked in wineries across Niagara and the Barossa Valley in Australia, gaining practical, hands-on wine production experience. Her focus on developing mitigation tools to assist industry with resilience to climate change and experience testing oenological methods on wine quality and consumer preferences through her PhD and post-doctoral research demonstrate her ability to tackle industry challenges in premium wine production.

From an outreach perspective, Kelly’s experience teaching labs in wine chemistry, wine microbiology and wine sensory evaluation and research experience in basic wine analysis, advanced aroma chemistry and consumer behaviour will serve the Ontario and broader Canadian wine industry in addressing their needs, Inglis said.

“I am honoured and excited to take on the role of CCOVI Scientist in Oenology,” said Kelly. “I truly believe in our local grape and wine industry and am eager to address their needs through future research endeavours. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues in CCOVI, the wider Brock community and industry partners once again and look forward to the 2023 harvest.”

Inglis is excited to have Spodek and Kelly join the CCOVI team.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Spodek and Dr. Kelly to our team at CCOVI. Their combined expertise in entomology and oenology will greatly enhance the Institute’s ability to address the challenges faced by the grape and wine industry in our region and beyond,” she said. “We look forward to the contributions they will make to CCOVI’s leading-edge research programs and outreach initiatives as they work to build upon the Institute’s deep community connections with stakeholders and partners.”

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