WSU students awarded scholarships for work in viticulture

Four WSU students received $2,500 scholarships for the 2021-2022 school year by the American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV).

A brunette woman in orange sunglasses with a white sweater holds a bright orange farm tool in a vineyard against a blue sky.
Gagnier uses a tube device for deep soil samples, to see how deep parasitic nematodes might live.

ASEV is a professional society with members from wineries, vineyards, and academic institutions. Each year they award students who study wine science and viticulture.

Bernadette Gagnier, Alexa McDaniel, Heather Carbon, and Claire Warren all earned the scholarships.

“ASEV is proud to support students on their journey in enology and viticulture,” said ASEV Executive Director Dan Howard. “We believe in them, and the impact they are making in research.”

After serving in the Marine Corps for five years, Gagnier, a horticulture graduate student, said she was determined to find a career where she would be passionate.

“I looked up plant science degrees in Washington state and discovered the viticulture and enology program,” said Gagnier, whose goal is to be a vineyard manager. “I toured campus, explored the Tri-Cities, and I just loved it all.”

Gagnier spends her days with her hands in vineyard soil studying nematodes, small worms that feed on the roots of grapevines and cause them to lose their vigor and reduce grape yield over time.

Because she works on the vineyard side of horticulture, Gagnier is always covered in dirt. “I have more pictures of bugs on my phone than anything else,” she said.

A woman with a clipboard in a lab coat monitors equipment.
Heather Carbon monitors the fermentation progress of non-saccharomyces yeasts in synthetic grape juice.

Gagnier is studying how different plant species can be leveraged to manage nematode pests in vineyards with less pesticide use.

“The first year of data has been very successful,” she said. “If this works in wine grape systems, it might also work for numerous other crops.”

The scholarship provides financial support for the students along with admission to the virtual ASEV National Conference.

Heather Carbon, a graduate research assistant for the School of Food Science, currently studies wine microbiology. “It feels extremely humbling to be recognized by such a prestigious wine research organization,” she said.

As the students continue work in microbiology and preventing soil borne pests using more natural means, funds from the scholarship will allow them to put the money where they feel they need it most.

Gagnier said living on a modest assistantship as a graduate student can be a struggle, so she appreciates the flexibility of the funds. “We can use the funding to travel to conferences, or work on special projects, so it’s awesome,” she said.[promo promo_type=”custom” img_src=”” img_id=”40611″ link=”” promo_title=”Subscribe to Voice of the Vine” excerpt=”Learn how researchers, students, and alumni are working together to further wine science in Washington state and around the world – subscribe to WSU’s Voice of the Vine.” ][/column][/row]