Campus Life  

Sulphites and the great wine debate

UBC research shows different sulphite amounts affect yeast strain and final product

Adding different levels of sulphites to grape juice can significantly alter which yeasts are able to ferment the wine—and changes how the final wine tastes and smells.

UBC Okanagan PhD candidate Sydney Morgan has recently published research about how sulphites, also known as sulphur dioxide (SO2), affect wine yeast and how this reaction may change the taste of a product. After a six-month study at two different Okanagan wineries, Morgan has determined that different wine yeasts react differently to SO2 depending on how much was added at the beginning of fermentation.

UBC Okanagan PhD candidate Sydney Morgan conducts research on wine yeast strains and how they react to sulphites.

UBC Okanagan PhD candidate Sydney Morgan conducts research on wine yeast strains and how they react to sulphites.

“We wanted to see whether adding different levels of sulphur dioxide at the beginning of the wine-making process changed the particular yeasts fermenting the grape juice,” she explains. “Because different yeast strains can produce different flavour and aroma compounds, this can significantly affect the flavour and aroma profile of the final wine.”

Her research—conducted with Assoc. Prof. of Biology Dan Durall—examined a common commercial yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. While there are hundreds of strains of this yeast, adding different levels of SO2 can create different environments in the grape juice that allow different yeast strains to grow and take over fermentation. It is the yeast strain profile, or yeast composition, that helps determine the final taste of a wine.

Until recently, little was known about how different levels of SO2 at the early wine-making stage could create diverse environments that promote the growth of different yeast strains. Morgan chose two wineries for her study: Cedar Creek Estate Winery, an established business with a 40-year-old building, and 50th Parallel Estate Winery, a new winery with a recently completed wine-making facility. The wineries are significantly different—from the age of the buildings, to the grapes used, and geographical locations.

“The level of SO2 added before fermentation did specifically impact the dominant strains of yeast that we were able to identify throughout fermentation,” says Morgan. “The results of our research are of interest to both the scientific community as well as to wine makers who are looking to add lower levels of SO2 to their fermentations.”

Using sulphur dioxide in wine-making is considered essential by some, but it is also controversial, she explains. In low levels, sulphites are not harmful to most people, and they can help wine makers as they prevent spoilage, prevent the browning of white grape juice, and improve the longevity of wine. However, some people react to sulphites; some feel nausea, while others may have a red face, hives, and asthma sufferers may have a more severe response.

The research, partially funded by a grant from the BC Wine Grape Council and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, was recently published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology.



Markin twins challenge College alumni to support next generation of learners

Allison and Quentin Markin have launched a donation-matching challenge to alumni of Okanagan College to help raise $20,000 towards the College’s new child care centre.  

markin family - webBoth attended the College for the first year of their post-secondary education and are appealing to Okanagan College and Okanagan University College alumni to raise funds for the new child care centre, which is currently under construction at the Penticton campus.

The siblings were inspired to donate to the child care campaign in honour of the family’s long-standing ties to the College, and for their parents Allan and Evelyn, on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary.

“We wanted to recognize our parents and their connection to the College,” says Allison Markin. “Our parents gave us an appreciation for the transformative power of education and we wanted to pay it forward to the next generation of learners.” 

The siblings are prepared to match donations from alumni who contribute before the centre opens this fall, up to a collective total of $10,000. The matched gifts go towards the College’s “Bright from the Start: Building for the Future” campaign goal of $700,000.

“It takes alumni to support College students and the next generation of learners,” adds Markin, who also volunteers on the campaign committee. “By doubling the donations, we hope to raise $20,000 to give the child care centre a boost and our future students a bright start." 

The new child care centre will serve families in the South Okanagan, including Okanagan College students and employees. It will be operated through a partnership with the Penticton and District Community Resources Society.

The siblings originally moved to Penticton with parents Allan and Evelyn in 1988 when Allan took on the role of Campus Director for the College. Both parents are well known for championing many educational, fundraising and community-based initiatives in the Penticton area, including the Mad Hatter’s Ball, a fundraising event for the College.

Due to their parents’ involvement at the College, when it came time to consider their post-secondary options, both siblings chose to get their start at the Penticton campus, before going on to complete degrees elsewhere.

Allison Markin is an in-demand marketing expert with her own consulting business and has previously utilized her expertise at the College as an instructor and a communications specialist. Twin brother Quentin is a highly-regarded international lawyer.

“It’s wonderful to see our alumni taking active roles to make a positive impact for our students and the broader community,” says Kara Kazimer, President of the Okanagan College Alumni Association.

“We hope Allison and Quentin’s generosity will initiate a momentum among the 3,000 alumni in the South Okanagan and they will rise to the challenge by maximizing the funds raised to benefit families in the region.”

Alumni can donate at www.okanagan.bc.ca/alumni and share their support online using the hashtag #BrightStartChallenge.

Non-alumni can make a donation or learn more about the innovative project by visiting the Okanagan College Foundation website at www.okanagancollegefoundation.ca.

UBC researchers test 3D-printed water quality sensor

Mina Hoorfar working in her lab.

UBC Okanagan professor Mina Hoorfar at work in her Advanced Thermo-Fluidic lab.

Inexpensive and tiny devices inspect water quality in the distribution system  

Researchers at UBC’s Okanagan campus have designed a tiny device —built using a 3D printer—that can monitor drinking water quality in real time and help protect against waterborne illness.

Prof. Mina Hoorfar, Director of the School of Engineering, says new research proves their miniaturized water quality sensors are cheap to make, can operate continuously and can be deployed anywhere in the water distribution system.

“Current water safety practice involves only periodic hand testing, which limits sampling frequency and leads to a higher probability of disease outbreak,” says Hoorfar. “Traditional water quality sensors have been too expensive and unreliable to use across an entire water system.”

Until now, that is. Tiny devices created in her Advanced Thermo-Fluidic lab at UBC’s Okanagan campus, are proving reliable and sturdy enough to provide accurate readings regardless of water pressure or temperature. The sensors are wireless, reporting back to the testing stations, and work independently—meaning that if one stops working, it does not bring down the whole system. And since they’re made using 3D printers, they are fast, inexpensive and easy to produce.

“This highly portable sensor system is capable of constantly measuring several water quality parameters such as turbidity, pH, conductivity, temperature, and residual chlorine, and sending the data to a central system wirelessly,” she adds. “It is a unique and effective technology that can revolutionize the water industry.”

While many urban purification plants have real-time monitoring sensors, they are upstream of the distribution system. Often, Hoorfar notes, the pressure at which water is supplied to the customer is much higher than what most sensors can tolerate. But her new sensors can be placed right at or within a customer’s home, providing a direct and precise layer of protection against unsafe water.

And when things go wrong, they can end tragically. More than 17 years ago, four people died, and hundreds became ill, after drinking E.coli-affected water in Walkerton, Ontario.

“Although the majority of water-related diseases occur in lower- or middle-income countries, water quality events in Walkerton, for example, raise serious questions about consistent water safety in even developed countries like Canada,” says Hoorfar. “Many of these tragedies could be prevented with frequent monitoring and early detection of pathogens causing the outbreak.”

This research, recently published in Sensors, was partly funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada Strategic Project Grant and Postgraduate Scholarship funding.


UBC Library enhances access to Okanagan Valley historical resources

UBC students Emma Smith, left, and Eamon Riordan-Short scan historical material at Peachland’s museum as part of the Okanagan Region Historical Digitization Project.

UBC students Emma Smith, left, and Eamon Riordan-Short scan historical material at Peachland’s museum as part of the Okanagan Region Historical Digitization Project.

Student digitization team visits community archives and museums

The rich and varied history of the Okanagan Valley will be easier to discover thanks to a project launched by UBC Okanagan’s Library in partnership with various regional organizations.

A private British Columbia-based foundation has donated more than $94,000 to help UBC launch the Okanagan Region Historical Digitization Project. The goal—which will result in the digitization of thousands of photographs and textual documents held in archives and museums throughout the Okanagan Valley— is to make these important local historical resources more broadly accessible to the public, says Paige Hohmann, UBC archivist and special collections librarian.

“Not only will we be making this material more readily available, but we will also be rescuing a lot of material from obscurity and opening a window into events that helped shape the history of this region,” says Hohmann.

Hohmann, along with UBC graduate co-op student Alexandra Neijens and three other students are travelling to municipal museums, volunteer organizations and privately-operated historical sites throughout the Okanagan to digitize material that has been pre-selected by museum staff. Once the project is complete, this material will be accessible online around the clock.

“Before digitization, if someone wanted to see specific material in a small regional museum, they likely needed to visit that museum. Many such repositories are managed by part-time staff and may have restricted hours,” says UBC’s university archivist Chris Hives. “This project provides an unprecedented level of access, largely removing the spatial and time constraints associated with locating and then travelling to where this material lives.”

Although there is an increased demand for access to historical information, the cost of digitization, preservation and storage can be a barrier for smaller organizations with limited budgets, explains Hives. This project offers additional expertise and equipment, which could be otherwise unavailable to many of these small museums and archives.

“I am honoured that UBC Okanagan can play a coordinating role, promoting the wonderful resources held, and work being done, in some of our region’s most interesting and important locations, ”says UBC Okanagan Chief Librarian Heather Berringer. “I hope this will encourage people, whether visitors or local to the area, to further explore the historical treasures of the Okanagan.”

To date, the project team has visited museums in Peachland and Summerland, as well as the Historic O’Keefe Ranch. Further summer visits will include sites in Armstrong-Spallumcheen, Keremeos, Osoyoos, Naramata, Sicamous and Lumby. The project’s digitized collections will be freely available online early this fall.


New apocalyptic lit course comes to College’s Penticton campus

A new English course is sure to bring much-wanted doom and gloom to students at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus this Fall.

jeremy beaulne fall 2017 lit class webWhen English Professor Jeremy Beaulne discovered he was teaching English 231: Studies in Popular Narrative this September, he immediately set out to create a unique course that has never before been offered at the College. 

After scanning a wide array of first-year English courses at the College and across the country, he decided to focus the course on a topic popular from highbrow literature to Netflix – the apocalypse.

“Recently, I’ve seen many first year English classes talk about technology and the thought of technology potentially surpassing humans,” explains Beaulne. “I was interested to see how this cataclysmic thought manifested in popular media and quickly saw it’s something people are obsessed with. There are constantly new movies, TV series and literary works about apocalyptic scenarios.”

Beaulne’s course will provide an in-depth study on apocalypse through a series of classic texts, contemporary works and modern films. Students can expect to delve into materials spanning over two centuries, from 19th century poetry to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which has recently seen new life and a surge in popularity thanks to a 2017 TV series adaptation on Bravo.

“I have always loved to imagine end-of-the-world scenarios, especially zombies,” says Beaulne. “This course will look into different types of apocalypses including alien and technological invasions, zombies, ecological decimation, and other doomsday scenarios.”

Another unique feature of the course sure to delight students: Beaulne’s end-of-the-world reading list is open-ended.

“Students will have the chance to bring their favourite—or new—apocalyptic literature and complete an assignment based on their chosen text,” says Beaulne. 

Beaulne has been a member of the Okanagan College English Department since 2008. When he is not teaching, Beaulne is active in amateur theatre and can often be found in the director’s chair helping to craft the next production for Okanagan College’s Red Dot Players.


A better way to build: College grad constructs net-zero family home

In search of an innovative building solution, David Sawatzky discovered much more than a new perspective when he enrolled in Okanagan College’s Sustainable Construction Management Technology diploma (SCMT): he adopted sustainability as a way of life. 

“I had worked in the building industry for years and was dissatisfied,” says 38-year-old Sawatzky. “I knew there had to be a better way to build.

Sawatzky David“The SCMT program was exactly what I was looking for,” explains the recent graduate who was part of the program’s first graduating class last month. “It was unique in Canada, a first of its kind. Right away I knew it could give me the leg-up on the industry competition.”

Inspired by the skills and theories learned in the classroom, he set out to build his own net-zero energy house.

“My wife and I wanted to go beyond the need of a house, it had to be sustainable,” explains the father of three. “We had to be pragmatic but also visionaries. We said let’s make it a size we need, but not more, we don’t want excess nor wasted space.”

The family moved into the custom 1,700 square foot house in Lumby earlier this month. It boasts the most sustainable and industry innovative features including: LED lighting throughout, a super insulated concrete form foundation (as opposed to the conventional uninsulated concrete), Energy Star compliant fixtures and appliances, low flow plumbing fixtures, and a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) and mini-split ductless heat pump. The latter two are essential for heating and cooling in energy efficient ways using existing airflow, especially for the seasonal temperature range experienced in the Okanagan. 

“The icing on the cake though is the solar panels on the roof,” says Sawatzky of the 7.4 kW photovoltaic array (28 panels that generate 265 watts each). “We needed a new car, but we preferred the house to be energy zero, so in they went.”

The ultimate goal is to be energy net-positive, meaning the house would create energy that the Sawatzkys would sell back to the power grid, but they will have to wait a year to measure their success.

“If it all works out, hydro will actually write me a cheque every year,” adding that the only utility bill they will have is a small water bill. “It pays to be green.”

Sawatzky is confident his College education will also help him succeed as an entrepreneur in his new sustainable construction business.

“I learned that it’s not just the solution that matters – the process to the solution is equally important,” he says. “We need to build in eco-conscious ways and find a balanced triple bottom line approach: people, planet and profit.”

This type of thinking is one way the SCMT program proves it’s in-line with Okanagan College’s recognition as a leader in post-secondary sustainability. 

“It enriches the students’ experience to study in buildings that represent the exact sustainable features we teach in the classroom,” says Dr. Amy Vaillancourt, Chair of the SCMT program at Okanagan College. “The College is committed to building green, as exemplified in buildings on multiple campuses, and continues to approach future construction with this in mind.”

The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation at the Penticton campus (where the SCMT program is taught) achieved LEED Platinum status, was built with the intention to meet petals of the Living Building Challenge, was named the greenest post-secondary building in Canada in 2016 by Corporate Knights Magazine, and has the largest solar panel array on a non-utility building in Western Canada. 

At its Kelowna campus, the Centre for Learning is certified LEED Gold and the recently completed trades building is targeting LEED Platinum. Meanwhile a new trades building under construction at the Vernon campus aims to achieve LEED Gold standard.

The College is now accepting applications for the next student intake in the two-year SCMT diploma program. Classes start in the fall of 2017. For more information, visit okanagan.bc.ca/SCMT


New biofuel technology cuts production time significantly

UBC Okanagan researcher helps develop cheaper and faster bioreactors

New research from a professor of engineering at UBC’s Okanagan Campus might hold the key to biofuels that are cheaper, safer and much faster to produce.

“Methane is a biofuel commonly used in electricity generation and is produced by fermenting organic material,” says Cigdem Eskicioglu, an associate professor with UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. “The process can traditionally take anywhere from weeks to months to complete, but with my collaborators from Europe and Australia we’ve discovered a new biomass pretreatment technique that can cut production time nearly in half.”

Starting with materials commonly found in agricultural or forestry waste—including wheat straw, corn husks and Douglas fir bark—Eskicioglu compared traditional fermentation processes with their new technique and found that Douglas fir bark in particular could produce methane 172 per cent faster than before.

“The potential to more efficiently harness the energy from forestry waste products like tree bark can open a world of new opportunities,” says Eskicioglu. “Our new fermentation process would be relatively easy to implement on site and because the bioreactors can be much smaller, the costs can be kept low.”

The new process pretreats the initial organic material with carbon dioxide at high temperatures and pressures in water before the whole mixture is fermented, Eskicioglu explains. The new pretreatment process uses equipment and materials that are already widely available at an industrial scale, so retrofitting existing bioreactors or building new miniaturized ones could be done cheaply and easily.

In addition to producing biogas faster and cheaper, Eskicioglu says her new technique may also make methane production safer.

“Unlike traditional biomass pretreatment for bioreactors, our method doesn’t require the use or generation of toxic chemicals. We still have some work to do to move it to an industrial scale, but our results so far are very promising.”

The study will be published in September’s edition of Water Research.

Cigdem Eskicioglu is a professor of engineering at UBC’s Okanagan Campus.

Cigdem Eskicioglu is a professor of engineering at UBC’s Okanagan Campus.



Accommodation available to BC wildfire evacuees at UBC Okanagan

UBC’s Okanagan campus advised today that summer accommodation in their student residences remain available to those that have been affected by BC wildfires.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Deborah Buszard said:

"I am saddened by the devastation and disruption being caused by the wildfires across the province and the thoughts of everyone at UBCO are with all those affected.

Our campus is part of the provincial emergency response plan and we work closely with authorities to provide accommodation to firefighting personnel and evacuees when required. While these emergency accommodations have not been requested at this time, we stand ready to assist should they be needed.

In addition to the provincial emergency response, our campus continues to offer low cost and family friendly accommodation to anyone displaced by the fires. I encourage those still seeking a safe place to stay to contact our Conferences and Accommodation team.”

More information on UBC Okanagan guest facilities can be found at: okanagan.ubcconferences.com/accommodations


College appoints new Regional Dean for South Okanagan-Similkameen

Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College will welcome a new Regional Dean for the South Okanagan-Similkameen later this summer. Eric Corneau, a college administrator with a significant and diverse background in the sector will step into the role on August 28, 2017.

Eric Corneau July 2017Corneau comes to Okanagan College from Nunavut Arctic College (NAC) in Iqaluit where he has worked for the last nine years, most recently as Vice President. In that role, Corneau supervised a team of 44 across three divisions: Academic Affairs, Student Services, and Corporate Services. He was instrumental in the development of new partnerships and the delivery of new programs, involving extensive consultation with Indigenous peoples, community, industry and various levels of government. Before becoming Vice President, he served as Dean of the College’s Nunatta Campus and prior to that as Manager of Policy and Planning.

He holds a Master of Arts in Public Administration and a Graduate Certificate in Public Management and Governance from the University of Ottawa, and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Political Science with a Major in Community and Public Affairs from Concordia University.

“As a newcomer to the South Okanagan, I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the College and the region,” says Corneau. “I’m eager to work with and be a resource to our students, faculty and employees. I’m also very excited to build on the strong relations with community, local First Nations, industry, donors, government, alumni and other groups that enrich and empower the College’s mission and contribute to the overall vibrancy of the region.”

“We are confident that Eric’s depth of experience and proven track record for supporting learner success and empowering staff to excellence will enable him to thrive in his new role,” says Okanagan College’s Vice President Students, Charlotte Kushner.

“With his aptitude for innovative partnership and program development, and strong community focus, he is well suited to continue the outstanding work done by his predecessors to provide world-class learning opportunities for learners in the South Okanagan.”

Corneau also brings a strong track record of community involvement. He was President of the Association des francophones du Nunavut for more than eight years during his time with NAC.

Donna Lomas, the previous Regional Dean, retired in December 2016 from the role she occupied since September 2005.


Applied research project investigates injuries in tree planters

A chance meeting with a physiotherapist in Northern B.C. has led an Okanagan College instructor to a collaborative research project that examines common injuries in a distinct industry: tree planting. 

darrell skinner release 2017 web“There are thousands of tree planters in the province, and while we may think of repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, or tennis elbow, imagine planting up to 2,500 trees each day for a number of months,” says Darrell Skinner, an instructor in Okanagan College’s Therapist Assistant program. “Injury is unfortunately sometimes expected with such physical work, but we wanted to examine possible preventative strategies.”

Bringing together a team of students, and with the support and expertise of the owner and staff of Total Physiotherapy in Houston, BC, Skinner is leading research into taping hands and wrists to prevent tendonitis in tree planters.

“More than 30 per cent of tree planters have tendonitis,” says Mike McAlonan, owner of Total Physio. “And it’s likely under-reported as planters don’t wish to take days off and lose income. Tree planters are like athletes. They have a short season to work, so we manage them like athletes to keep them going until the season comes to an end.”

Rather than treating tendonitis post-injury, Skinner and McAlonan’s research focusses on prevention. Control and test groups of planters are being closely monitored to determine if a specific form of taping can help prevent injury. 

“This is the first time I’ve been part of an applied research project,” says McAlonan. “It’s been exciting working with Okanagan College on a project that will hopefully have a positive impact in the industry.”

According to the B.C. Council of Forest Industries, in 2015-16, the forest industry in B.C. generated $833 million in direct public revenue, $12.9 billion in product exports, and trees planted in B.C. captured two billion tonnes of carbon. 

tree planting release“This is an important component to our economy and also supports the environment,” notes Skinner.

Windfirm Resources, based in Smithers, conducts tree planting in two camps. Each season, around 150 workers plant 12 million trees. Operations manager and field supervisor Ryan Zapisocki became involved in the preventive injury research through Total Physio, Windfirm’s physiotherapy provider.

“Mike has trained our first aid and crew members to do the taping, and the planters are now learning how to recognize the symptoms and prevent injury. Our veterans (those who have returned for several seasons), are almost injury free now. Everyone loves it,” says Zapisocki. “It’s made a big difference, and it’ll be great for the province once word gets out.”

Skinner and McAlonan has visited several tree planting camps this spring, and so far the research is showing great potential to help reduce tendonitis in planters in B.C. and beyond. Many tree planters have thanked them for coming up with the project. 

“It’s a great feeling when a crew member comes up to me and says thank you,” says Skinner. “They tell me that they feel their work and health are both valued.”

The project is funded by an Engage Grant from NSERC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Student involvement, in addition to working with industry partners, is a key component of applied research at the College. Two students from the College’s Therapist Assistant program are lending a hand with the project. 

Alisha Lemke, who graduated from the program last month, has been assisting with literature research and compiling prior related research. 

“I was interested in the practical training at Okanagan College, and became interested in this project as part of my education. It’s helping me prepare for the real world,” says Lemke. “The idea of preventive taping has not been well researched. Most of it is sports-related, not worker-related.” 

Riley Orchard, another Therapist Assistant student will be helping with further analysis of the research results this fall.

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