David Trifunov

Email: dtrifuno@mail.ubc.ca


A helicopter with water bucket attacks a forest fire.

Spring rain may have dampened wildfires burning in BC and Alberta, but the dangers of dry forests and swollen rivers remain.

Wildfires are abundant in Alberta, while many areas in BC are on flood watch. It seems the changing climate is becoming less predictable and more volatile as each year passes. UBC Okanagan has several professors available to comment on heat, wildfires and associated issues.

Phil Ainsley, Professor of Environmental Physiology, Co-Director of Centre For Heart, Lung and Vascular Health, School of Health and Exercise Sciences

Areas of expertise:

  • Heat and pollution and their isolated and combined influence on physiology and human health
  • Effect of temperature and oxygen availability on physiology, pathology and performance
  • Acclimatization, adaptation and maladaptation to environmental stress

Email: philip.ainslie@ubc.ca

Call: 250-878-6171


Mathieu Bourbonnais, Assistant Professor, Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences

Areas of expertise:

  • Wildfire risk, suppression and mitigation
  • Firefighting and use of satellites for wildfire detection and monitoring

Email: Mathieu.Bourbonnais@ubc.ca

Call: 778-583-0272


Greg Garrard, Professor of Environmental Humanities, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies

Areas of expertise:

  • Environmental literature
  • Culture and climate change (including skepticism)
  • The cultural ecology of wildfire
  • Political polarization

Email: greg.garrard@ubc.ca

Call: 250-863-2822


Kevin Hanna, Associate Professor, Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences

Areas of expertise:

  • Vulnerable infrastructure
  • Risk and disaster assessment wildfire management and policy
  • Climate change and risk events

Email: kevin.hanna@ubc.ca

Call: 250-807-9265


Mary-Ann Murphy, Associate Professor, Social Work Sociology

Areas of expertise:

  • Dealing with the emotional trauma of wildfires
  • Lessons from evacuees
  • What to pack when evacuating
  • Caring for seniors in extreme heat

Email: mary-ann.murphy@ubc.ca

Call: 250-807-8705


David Scott, Associate Professor, Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences

Areas of expertise:

  • Effects of wildfire on hydrology and erosion
  • Evaluation of fire site rehabilitation methods in terms of controlling erosion and sedimentation

Email: david.scott@ubc.ca

Note: Dr. Scott is only available for interviews via email.


Dwayne Tannnat, Professor, School of Engineering

Areas of expertise:

  • Landslides, rockfalls
  • Below debris field flood mitigation
  • Post-wildfire debris flow mitigation

Email: dwayne.tannant@ubc.ca

Call: 604-801-4301

The post UBC Okanagan experts ready to talk about floods, wildfires appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

Caribou from the Klinse-Za herd in northeastern BC graze in this handout photo. Line Giguere, Wildlife Infometrics.

Climbing caribou numbers in northeastern British Columbia prove that collaborations between Indigenous and colonial governments can reverse decades-long declines, but focus needs to shift to culturally meaningful recovery targets, a consortium of researchers and community members say in a new paper published this week in Science.

UBC Okanagan’s Dr. Clayton Lamb and West Moberly First Nation Chief Roland Willson co-lead the paper, Braiding Indigenous Rights and Endangered Species Law, alongside nine others for the influential journal.

“Abundance matters. There are many cases where endangered species laws have prevented extinction, but the warning signs of decline can appear long before the laws take effect. People who live and work on the land see these changes – we need to listen and act with them to prevent declines,” says Lamb, a biologist and MITACS postdoc in UBCO’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science. “There is a large gap between what the laws see as species recovery and what communities need for health, food security, and cultural well-being.”

The policy paper builds on collaborations between UBCO’s Lamb and Dr. Adam Ford, who have previously published research highlighting recovery efforts of the Klinse-Za caribou herd near the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations. They also looked at evolving bison and salmon recovery efforts in North America.

Researchers heard stories from West Moberly Elders about a “sea of caribou” once looking like “bugs on the landscape,” but only 38 animals remained in 2013. Those numbers climbed to 115 a decade later thanks to interventions led by Indigenous groups. While these early signs of recovery are cause for immense celebration, the herd remains much smaller than historic levels.

“We need to move past a life support mentality for biodiversity,” says Ford, head of UBCO’s Wildlife Restoration Ecology Lab. “We must restore nature and the time-honoured ways people interact with the land.”

Canada and the United States have endangered species laws that are designed to recover species abundance to levels that will minimize the chance of extinction, but these recovery targets do not take into account culturally meaningful abundance or distributions of plants and animals, the authors say.

The paper highlights the current caribou count would only provide about three animals, or one meal per person, per year for Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations. The culturally significant count would require a herd of over 3,000 animals, an abundance more reflective of the historic “sea of caribou” level.

Naomi Owens-Beek, manager of Treaty Rights and Environmental Protection for Saulteau First Nation, contributed to the research and the policy paper.

She says the collaboration between Canadian and Indigenous leaders is essential to preserving traditional ways of life. Some Elders in the region have never tasted caribou, yet it was a staple of their ancestors and provided vital nutrition, material, spirituality, and a sense of place.

“We looked out at the land and thought, ‘What do these caribou need to be once again the great herds our Elders spoke about?’ We first reduced predation to make sure the caribou weren’t lost. Now we’re focusing on protecting and restoring habitat,” she says.

“Caribou habitat has long been mistreated, and now there’s so few caribou. These herds need space to thrive, and that’s why we’re working with the nations, the province of British Columbia and Canada, to heal these lands and increase the population so we can one day go back into the mountains and hunt caribou.”

The paper also examined efforts to restore salmon and bison habitat in North America. Chief Willson says each species shows modest signs of recovery, but that isn’t nearly the progress needed.

“Braiding Indigenous rights with laws protecting endangered species can enable nations to respect and safeguard the rights of Indigenous communities, curb the threat of species loss, and ultimately confer broad societal advantages,” he says.

Lamb, Willson, Ford and Owens-Beek were joined by Allyson Menzies (School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph), Michael Price (Earth to Ocean Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University), Scott McNay (Wildlife Infometrics), Sarah Otto (Department of Zoology & Biodiversity Research Centre at UBC), Mateen Hessami (Wildlife Science Center—Biodiversity Pathways at UBCO), Jesse Popp (School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph) and Mark Hebblewhite (Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana).

Permalink: https://news.ok.ubc.ca/2023/05/18/call-for-canada-to-braid-indigenous-rights-with-endangered-species-law/

The post Call for Canada to braid Indigenous rights with endangered species law appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of a woman doing resistance training exercises.

New research from UBC Okanagan’s shows that resistance exercise temporarily reduced hunger-inducing hormones among breast-cancer survivors.

A new study by researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Colorado has found that weight-lifting may benefit appetite regulation and energy balance in breast cancer survivors.

The study, published in Appetite, involved 16 women who had completed treatment for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer within the past five years. On separate days, the women performed a single bout of resistance exercise, such as lifting weights, or sat quietly. The researchers measured their appetite sensations, appetite-related hormones and energy intake before and after each session.

The results showed that resistance exercise temporarily reduced hunger-inducing hormones and increased appetite-suppressing hormones compared to the sedentary condition.

Dr. Sarah Purcell, the study’s lead author and an investigator with the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management based at UBCO, said the findings suggest resistance exercise may help breast cancer survivors maintain healthy body weight and prevent obesity-related complications.

“Breast cancer survivors are often at increased risk of obesity,” she says. “We know that exercise can suppress appetite in people without previous cancer, at least in the short term, so we tested that in women with previous breast cancer who have low estrogen as part of their treatment. After a single bout of resistance exercise, we found some modest suggestions that exercise changes hormones to promote fullness and decrease hunger.”

About 80 per cent of people with breast cancer have estrogen receptor-positive cancer (ER-positive), and the standard of care after radiation or chemotherapy is five to 10 years of estrogen suppression.

Popular culture may portray cancer survivors as emaciated and lethargic, but weight gain—especially for women fighting breast cancer—can be as much of a worry.

“We think from experimental studies that estrogen is essential for appetite regulation and energy metabolism,” Purcell says.

Other studies have suggested that people with long-term estrogen suppression may increase their fat mass over the long term and decrease their muscle mass.

“We’re not sure what causes that. We also know that exercise can positively impact appetite in people without previous cancer, decreasing hunger or increasing satiety in certain conditions.”

Purcell said more research is needed to confirm the long-term effects of resistance exercise on breast cancer survivors’ appetite and energy intake and identify the optimal frequency, intensity and duration of activity for this group.

“It’s preliminary. People may not realize that exercise can promote appetite hormones in a way that would, at least theoretically, decrease later energy intake. We saw that a single bout of resistance exercise led to lower amounts of a hormone that promotes hunger—ghrelin—and higher amounts of a hormone that promotes satiety or fullness—peptide-yy.

“Again, the changes were modest, so we need to compare it to people without cancer, which we’re doing now.”

The National Institutes of Health supported the research, which appears in the latest issue of Appetite.

The post UBCO research says resistance exercise may help regulate appetite in breast cancer survivors appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

UBCO researchers isolated the genome for black root rot, a fungus killing cannabis plants in a licensed growing facility in the BC Kootenays. Here, healthy roots, left, are compared to those affected by black root rot.

A slippery black ooze, millions worth of cannabis plants and a ticking clock all contributed to one UBC Okanagan research team cracking the code of a potentially deadly fungus threatening the industry.

New research from UBCO doctoral student Chris Dumigan indicates his team has identified and analyzed Berkeleyomyces rouxiae—more commonly known as black root rot—in a crop affecting a Canadian licensed producer in the Kootenays.

A former classmate at the University of Guelph, Delaney Bray-Stone, emailed Dumigan for help. Bray-Stone, who would become a co-author of the research paper, needed help identifying a root-rot pathogen rapidly spreading through an aeroponic facility.

“He contacted me and sent me some pictures of root rot. They tested it for every available cannabis pathogen, and everything was fine. But if you look at the pictures of the initial infection, they were not fine,” Dumigan said.

“They had to wipe out a crop because it was killing all the plants, but they also had to shut down a wing of their facility and throw out a whole bunch of equipment. All the filters would form this thick, black sludge. Delaney still has nightmares about this thing because of how much stress it caused him.”

Dumigan’s first challenge was reproducing black root rot in a lab to study, but conventional growing media didn’t work. He was able to find an alternative, carrot agar.

“I think this is why it’s been missed in the industry because it’s difficult to culture; it’s pretty specific,” Dumigan said. “It almost needs fresh plant tissue that you convert into a media. But after I made this carrot agar, I returned the next day, and this black cell mass was growing on it that matched what I saw under a microscope.”

The carrot agar allowed him to begin researching treatments. Commercial cannabis is unique because Canadian authorities tightly control conventional fungicides, so growers don’t have exhaustive options.

“They’re using things like sulphur to control fungi or canola oil for insects. Some biological products were approved, but many were developed for other crops,” Dumigan said.

Within his thesis, however, he identifies several species of bacteria that inhabit roots and secrete compounds that can kill certain fungi.

“I’ve found several of them that kill this fungus, but none of this is published. It’s only a potential biocontrol, but they could be registered in Canada because it’s a certified organic option, not a conventional fungicide,” Dumigan said.

That’s the next phase. Deyholos and Dumigan released the genome for other researchers to download and study. He’s also working on a sequence-based diagnostic test so labs can help other producers worldwide avoid the same issues.

“This is science. To do something new, to discover something new, I don’t have an economic incentive in the cannabis industry. But I have a personal interest in pushing the boundaries of science.”

The research appears in the journal Plant Disease.

The post UBCO researcher shines a light on “nightmare” ooze killing cannabis plants appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

New research from UBC Okanagan suggests that understanding gut microbiomes of immigrants is important to understanding how westernization is driving immune responses like IBD.

Indian immigrants and Indo-Canadians who adopt westernized dietary practices experience a greater risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)—while supplements and probiotics often recommended may not provide the same benefits to certain demographics, new research from UBC Okanagan reveals.

Leah D’Aloisio, a Master of Science student in UBCO’s Department of Biology, and her thesis adviser, Dr. Deanna L. Gibson, worked in collaboration with colleagues from the UK and India to better understand the daily challenges experienced by Indians adapting to new cultures.

They’re currently investigating how westernization affects the gut microbiome and makes them more susceptible to IBD.

D’Aloisio’s research involves collecting stool samples from Indians living in India, Indian immigrants and Indo-Canadians. She analyzes their gut microbiome composition using DNA sequencing. She also collected additional data including dietary habits, lifestyle changes, health status and socioeconomic information.

When comparing the microbiomes of those living in India compared to Euro-Canadians, she’s found that the gut microbiomes in Indians are extremely different from Euro-Canadians.

“I really want people to understand the differences that exist in the human gut microbiome,” D’Aloisio says. “It looks drastically different depending on where you’re born and your overall lifestyle, so if you’re an immigrant here in Canada, think about that… And know that the research that led to creating these ‘gut health’ products you see marketed to you today is likely not representing you. Take time to rethink this before you spend your money. You don’t want to introduce a species into an ecosystem that is not meant to be there.”

According to D’Aloisio, her research has important implications for public health and clinical practice. She hopes that her findings will raise awareness about the influence of westernization on the gut microbiome and health outcomes of immigrant populations.

She also suggests that interventions such as dietary counselling, tailored probiotic supplementation and stress management may help prevent or treat IBD among Indian immigrants.

Dr. Gibson started this project thanks to funding from a UBC Killam research award that supported a sabbatical where she was able to collaborate with several high-profile research institutes in Kolkata and Manipal, India. Understanding the gut microbiomes of various populations outside of westernized countries is important to understanding how westernization is driving dysregulated immune responses like those in IBD.

The post Canadian gut health products may not provide the same benefits to immigrants, UBCO researchers say appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

Atmospheric balloons are important tools for gathering information high above the earth in zones where people wouldn’t survive unless they wear pressurized suits.

When Lake Country’s Nolan Koblischke heard the American government was shooting down balloons suspected of spying, he was more than a little curious. The George Elliot Secondary graduate has sent one of those balloons into the atmosphere himself as a student at UBC Okanagan.

Atmospheric balloons are important tools for gathering information high above the earth in zones where people wouldn’t survive unless they wear pressurized suits. Most balloons collect climate data through radios, cameras and satellite navigation equipment—and are incapable of spying.

Koblischke, a fourth-year physics student, and Leonardo Caffarello are part of a UBCO physics and engineering team that launched a balloon to the stratosphere from a space centre in the Swedish Arctic last fall. The team, sponsored by School of Engineering Professor Jonathan Holzman, launched the balloon for a physics experiment to observe cosmic rays.

Koblischke said many people might be surprised at just how much you can learn from a balloon.

What are scientists learning from these atmospheric balloons?

These atmospheric balloons are a powerful and versatile tool for scientific research and exploration. Our balloon was launched in collaboration with Canadian and European agencies, so we were joined by other university and government agency teams from different countries.

Each team flying on the balloon had a different research objective and experiment. For instance, an Italian team was testing solar panels in the upper atmosphere to be used on satellites, a German space agency team was studying stratospheric chemistry and a Hungarian team was testing radiation sensors. We even saw an experiment to carry a telescope for atmosphere-free observations of space. Besides these applications, most balloons are used for weather purposes.

Is this the first time your project has left the ground?

No, the group was originally formed a few years ago by Caffarello and competed against other university teams in the Canadian Stratospheric Balloon Experiment Design Challenge. The UBCO student-led project was one of two experiments selected to fly onboard a high-altitude research balloon launched by the Canadian Space Agency in August 2019. The balloon was airborne at about 120,000 feet for 10 hours.

The project was working on a cosmic ray detection system and they were looking for different cosmic particles across the lower atmosphere. Caffarello has since graduated but led our team on the latest iteration of this experiment that took place in Sweden last fall.

Can you explain what you learned from the experiment last fall?

Our experiment was an innovative endeavour to detect cosmic rays in the stratosphere that Caffarello and I launched from the Esrange Space Center above the arctic circle in Sweden. We learned how to devise and construct an experiment that can withstand the severe conditions of near vacuum and extreme temperatures. We also gathered valuable data during the flight such as temperatures, pressure and images that proved that certain components of our experiment could work. Lastly, we realized that research requires perseverance and collaboration.

One of the most challenging moments was when we found an issue while preparing for the launch, a sudden failure during a pressure test. We worked until 4 am for three nights in a row, culminating in an all-nighter, to brainstorm solutions and design parts on the spot. Although we did not fully fix the problem, we remained resilient and worked diligently to resolve what we could and we were successfully approved for launch.

Cosmic rays sound dangerous

Cosmic rays can cause cancer by damaging DNA, but the chances are very small so you don’t need to lose sleep over it. Thankfully, our atmosphere blocks most of the highest energy cosmic rays, hence why we needed a balloon to get our experiment above much of the atmosphere, to try to detect more cosmic rays. You might have heard that you receive radiation when flying equivalent to a chest x-ray—cosmic rays are the reasons why.

What’s next for students at UBCO? Any more high-flying projects?

Yes, we have a student team called the UBCO StratoNeers who are currently participating in the Canadian Stratospheric Balloon Experiment Design Challenge. It’s the same competition Caffarello participated in back in 2019

The StratoNeers are testing hardware protective techniques to mitigate the occurrence of bit flips due to cosmic radiation in computer binary code. This experiment would provide new insights into protective techniques to safely store data onboard satellites, rovers and space telescopes.

Do you worry someone will shoot down your balloons?

We weren’t worried about our balloon being shot down. It did drift into Norway but thankfully the Norwegians didn’t mind.

A photo of two students in front of a weather balloon launch

Leonardo Caffarello, left, and Nolan Koblischke pose in front of their atmospheric balloon as it’s prepared for launch.

The post UBCO students look up—way up—to gather research data appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

Edward Struzik is an author and journalist who has been writing about scientific and environmental issues for more than 30 years.

What: UBC Okanagan’s Distinguished Speaker Series—Dark Days at Noon: The Future of Fire
Who: Environmental advocate Edward Struzik
When: Wednesday, March 22, 7 pm
Venue: Kelowna Community Theatre, 1375 Water St.

When a wildfire burns through a community, it can leave a trail of destruction, devastation and distress. What if it didn’t have to?

On Wednesday, March 22, UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science presents Edward Struzik as part of its Distinguished Speaker Series.

Struzik is a highly respected environmental advocate, award-winning writer, photographer, educator and fellow at Queen’s University Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy.

His writings have appeared in various publications including Canadian Geographic and Scientific American, and his photographs have been featured in books, magazines and exhibitions curated by organizations such as the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.

He was also recently featured in National Geographic’s documentary The Last Ice, and is a member of the New York Times Bog Squad—a group of scientists, researchers and experts who answer readers’ questions about the role that bogs, fens and other peat-accumulating wetlands play in climate change and biodiversity.

During his presentation, Struzik will share his perspectives on wildfire, its impact on air and water quality as well as how communities can live with fires that are burning bigger, more often and are increasingly putting people in harm’s way.

He will also discuss his latest book, Dark Days at Noon: The Future of Fire, which explains how fire is part of the natural landscape, and explores its history and modern society’s misguided response to it.

Finally, he will explain how factors such as environmental racism, aggressive firefighting strategies and political indifference have left North America vulnerable to future fires.

The Distinguished Speaker Series brings compelling speakers to the Okanagan to share their unique perspectives on issues that affect our region, our country and our world.

This community event is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

For registration details, please visit: science.ok.ubc.ca/about/community-engagement/distinguished-speaker-series

The post UBCO hosts esteemed environmental advocate Edward Struzik appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A scenic view of the Eagle River in Yukon. The river is a tributary of the Porcupine River.

A team of international researchers monitoring the impact of climate change on large rivers in Arctic Canada and Alaska determined that, as the region is sharply warming up, its rivers are not moving as scientists have expected. Dr. Alessandro Ielpi, an Assistant Professor with UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, is a landscape scientist and lead author of a paper published this week in Nature Climate Change. The research, conducted with Dr. Mathieu Lapôtre at Stanford University, along with Dr. Alvise Finotello at the University of Padua in Italy, and Université Laval’s Dr. Pascale Roy-Léveillée, examines how atmospheric warming is affecting Arctic rivers flowing through permafrost terrain. Their findings, says Dr. Ielpi, were a bit surprising. “The western Arctic is one of the areas in the world experiencing the sharpest atmospheric warming due to climate change,” he says. “Many northern scientists predicted the rivers would be destabilized by atmospheric warming. The understanding was that as permafrost thaws, riverbanks are weakened, and therefore northern rivers are less stable and expected to shift their channel positions at a faster pace.” This assumption of faster channel migration owing to climate change has dominated the scientific community for decades. “But the assumption had never been verified against field observations,” he adds. To test this assumption, Dr. Ielpi and his team analyzed a collection of time-lapsed satellite images—stretching back more than 50 years. They compared more than a thousand kilometres of riverbanks from 10 Arctic rivers in Alaska, the Yukon and Northwest Territories, including major watercourses like the Mackenzie, Porcupine, Slave, Stewart and Yukon. “We tested the hypothesis that large sinuous rivers in permafrost terrain are moving faster under a warming climate and we found exactly the opposite,” he says. “Yes, permafrost is degrading, but the influence of other environmental changes, such as greening of the Arctic, counteracts its effects. Higher temperatures and more moisture in the Arctic mean the region is greening up. Shrubs are expanding, growing thicker and taller on areas that were previously only sparsely vegetated.” This growing and robust vegetation along the riverbanks means the banks have become more stable. “The dynamics of these rivers reflect the extent and impact of global climate change on sediment erosion and deposition in Arctic watersheds,” Dr. Ielpi and his colleagues write in the paper. “Understanding the behaviour of these rivers in response to environmental changes is paramount to understanding and working with the impact of climate warming on Arctic regions.” Dr. Ielpi points out that monitoring riverbank erosion and channel migration around the globe is an important tool that should be widely used to understand climate change. As part of this research, a dataset of rivers found in non-permafrost regions and representative of warmer climates in the Americas, Africa and Oceania was also analyzed. Those rivers migrated at rates consistent with what was reported in previous studies, unlike those in the Arctic. “We found that large sinuous rivers with various degrees of permafrost distribution in their floodplains and catchments, display instead a peculiar range in migration rates,” says Dr. Ielpi. “Surprisingly, these rivers migrate at slower rates under warming temperatures.” The time-lapse analysis shows that the sideways migration of large Arctic sinuous rivers has decreased by about 20 per cent over the last half-century. “The migration deceleration of about 20 per cent of the documented Arctic watercourses in the last half century is an important continent-scale signal. And our methodology tells us that 20 per cent may very well be a conservative measure,” he says. “We’re confident it can be linked to processes such as shrubification and permafrost thaw, which are in turn related to atmospheric warming. “Scientific thinking often evolves through incremental discoveries, although great value lies in disruptive ideas that force us to look at an old problem with new eyes,” states Dr. Ielpi. “We sincerely hope our study will encourage landscape and climate scientists elsewhere to re-evaluate other core assumptions that, upon testing, may reveal fascinating and exciting facets of our ever-changing planet.”
A photo of Dr. Alessandro Ielpi

Dr. Alessandro Ielpi, an Assistant Professor with UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, paddles the Stewart River in Yukon.

The post Arctic river channels changing due to climate change, scientists discover appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

New research from UBCO doctoral student Alanna Shwed shows pandemic restrictions at school made sizable impacts on parents trying to pack lunches.

Parents, you’ve been seen.

New research from UBC Okanagan’s Alanna Shwed has revealed what many parents may already know—packing lunches for your kids has always been stressful, and it got worse during COVID-19.

Findings from Shwed’s study show a need for better support to help ease the burden parents experience when packing their child’s school lunch during an already extremely stressful time.

Shwed undertook the work as a research assistant during her Master of Science degree in Kinesiology at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario. She is now pursuing a doctorate at UBCO.

It was conversations with her master’s supervisor Dr. Brenda Bruner and Dr. Kristen Ferguson—both working mothers who pack lunches—that led to this research. They wanted to know if other parents were thinking the same thing: what happens at school lunchtime in a pandemic?

“Mostly it came out of curiosity,” Shwed says, “but also from lived experiences of being parents themselves. The pandemic affected everyone, especially parents. We wanted to find out whether there’s a way that we can more creatively support parents.”

The research began before COVID-19 heaped more pressure on parents trying to balance their children’s nutritional needs and their wants.

Rather than shelve their work until after pandemic restrictions eased, Shwed and her colleagues used it to sharpen their focus.

They recruited nearly 300 participants from parent-specific Facebook groups across Ontario. The parents then completed a detailed, online survey about lunch packing habits. Shwed’s team also scoped all earlier research into the subject to design their survey.

They found sizable shifts.

Some schools restricted access to microwaves while others asked children to take all their garbage home with them.

“When you send your child to school with a yogurt, unless they’re washing the container clean, you’re getting some of that yogurt back in the lunch bag at the end of the day,” she says.

Other schools reduced eating time or changed where students ate lunch. And some teachers were limited in how they could help students with packaging or opening lids.

“Parents told us they’d have to practice,” Shwed says. “They’d get their kids to test out what’s going to work, and what’s not going to work. Before the pandemic teachers used to be able to help kids, so it wasn’t something parents necessarily had to think about.”

The data could help parents and teachers understand each other and the stress of school lunches, better, Shwed says.

Her study finds parents would benefit from more transparency behind the reasons for at-school policies, and schools and school systems are reminded of at-home realities.

“Moving forward, there is opportunity for providing support for parents, for teachers, for school administration to make sure that kids are eating enough and have enough time to eat so they can get through the day,” Shwed says “That’s going to make the day easier for teachers and the evening easier for parents.”

The study appears in the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research.

The post COVID proves lunch-packing parents need support appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

Researchers from UBC Okanagan are striving to better understand how to measure wines impacted by wildfire smoke.

As climate change continues to intensify wildfire season in British Columbia, the heavy smoke that frequently settles over vineyards can seep into the grapes and create ashy, smoky or medicinal-tasting wine.

New UBC Okanagan research examines how these wines are being tested and suggests a better chemical marker for predicting smoke taint.

Dr. Wesley Zandberg, an Associate Professor of Chemistry in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, collaborated on new research published recently in the journal Molecules. Key participants in this project included researchers at Kelowna-based Supra Research and Development and the University of Adelaide.

The teams studied 10 Okanagan wines produced in 2018, a serious fire season. All wines were perceptibly influenced by smoke exposure. Three wines were on the market but identified as “smoke affected” and seven were never marketed because of the high levels of smoke taint detected after fermentation.

Researchers sent these tainted wines—as well as model wines deliberately fortified with carefully determined concentrations of chemicals linked to the aroma of smoke—to nine commercial and research laboratories around the world to compare concentration results and assess testing accuracy.

The nine laboratories had very similar—and accurate—results in calculating the concentrations of generally accepted markers of smoke taint like guaiacol and 4-methylguaiacol.

However, they had much lower accuracies for other volatile phenols and particularly for free cresols—a class of related compounds. Not only were the laboratories less accurate in identifying these free cresols, but the calculated concentrations of these free cresols in the tainted wines varied significantly between each lab.

“It’s important to notice that just because these chemical markers of smoke taint are there and can be measured or tasted, that doesn’t mean you have a tainted product,” says Dr. Zandberg. “That’s why it’s important to distinguish between smoke-tainted and smoke-affected wine. Just because smoke can be perceived doesn’t mean necessarily the wine is tainted, since this can be subjective.”

For example, people might appreciate the taste or smell of smoke in wine. Smoke can add to a wine’s profile depending on the balance of other tastes and consumer preferences, he says. However, if the smoke taste is beyond what a majority of people would enjoy, it becomes smoke tainted.

The paper notes that some volatile phenols naturally occur at high levels in certain species of grapes like Shiraz, which is associated with a peppery taste. Guaiacol can also be present in significant levels after wine matures in oak barrels.

In a related project, Dr. Zandberg’s team is currently working on defining the normal levels of naturally occurring phenols in years unaffected by wildfire smoke.

These sensory evaluations included the smoke-tainted Okanagan wines along with several untainted Australian vintages.

Judges differentiated between fruitiness and acidity and the sensory evidence of smoke exposure, like cold ash, medicinal or burnt rubber aromas and flavours, as well as an ashy aftertaste.

Interestingly, concentrations of free cresols—the same compounds that the laboratories were least accurate in identifying—were most strongly correlated to the taste and smell of smoke taint in the sensory tests.

Wildfire smoke will continue to impact Okanagan vineyards and those around the world, Dr. Zandberg says. While the taint will vary between regions, because it is determined by the vegetation that has been burnt, his ongoing research will help wine producers better protect their products.

“This kind of research is valuable because it can provide more accurate and more regionally relevant risk assessment tools,” says Dr. Zandberg. “It can importantly help wine producers connect chemical measurements to the taste and smell of their product, and that leads to improved ways to potentially mitigate this problem and reduce smoke taint in Okanagan wines.”

The post Testing for smoke taint in Okanagan wines appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.