As a child, Sydney Morgan wanted to be a marine biologist, but somewhere along the way she realized that 'microbes were [her] calling'. She still wants to save the whales (who doesn't?), but in the meantime she is pursuing a PhD in Biology.
During Sydney's Honours project (UBC-O) under the supervision of Dr. Dan Durall, she found some interesting, novel results that she wanted to follow up on. She was accepted into the MSc program at UBC-O and quickly transferred to the PhD program.
The goal of Sydney's research is to determine how native yeast found in the winery and vineyard interact in wine fermentations to produce wines with unique sensory profiles. Ideally, she would like to find yeasts that are native to the Okanagan Valley that can make quality wines, which could help give locally produced wines a defined terrior.
One of the issues with native wine yeast is that they can sometimes produce 'off flavours', so wineries do not necessarily want them dominating during fermentation. However, some species of native yeast are assets to winemakers that can help the wines achieve greater richness and complexity, and can even ferment the wine to completion (meaning all the sugar has been converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide).
When asked what the most challenging aspect of her research is (besides not drinking the wine), Sydney said that working with vineyard yeasts can be difficult because less research has been conducted on them, making them difficult to characterize and work with in the laboratory.
Wine culture is an important part of the local economy and identity, and Sydney feels honoured that her research will be able to positively impact the local winemaking community, and eventually the consumers of that wine.
Lastly, Sydney is an avid member of the local community, giving her time to volunteer as the President of the B.G.S.S. and the Volunteer Engagement Lead for the Kelowna Chapter of Crohn's and Colitis Canada.
Author: Melissa Larrabee