December 21, 2023 Washington Wine Industry Foundation chooses six WSU students for scholarships
By Angela Sams
Six of the eight students recently awarded $47,000 in scholarship funding by the Washington Wine Industry Foundation are attending Washington State University.
Since 2002, the Washington Wine Industry Foundation has provided annual scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students studying viticulture, enology, and wine business in Washington state. Award amounts range from $2,000 to $10,000 per student.
“These scholarship winners embody the spirit of scholarship, innovation, and cooperation that drives our industry forward,” said Washington Wine Industry Foundation Executive Director Vicky Scharlau. “We are excited to see how their contributions will shape the future of the Washington wine industry.”
Funds are provided by wine industry benefactors such as the Alliance of Women in Washington Wine Scholarship, the Horse Heaven Hills Wine Grower Scholarship, and the Walter J. Clore Scholarship.
This year’s WSU scholarship awardees include Eva Rickard, a wine and beverage business management major in the Carson College of Business, as well as these five students in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences:
Bernadette Gagnier: Exploring sustainable integrated pest management strategies
Bernadette Gagnier, a horticulture PhD candidate, is researching sustainable alternatives for root-knot nematode management in Washington vineyards. Potential strategies include cover crops, fallow ground, and planting on rootstocks.
“We look at vineyards holistically and explore integrated pest management strategies that are a little kinder to the planet but still efficient and work for growers,” she said.
Gagnier, who expects to graduate in spring 2024, has received a Washington Wine Industry Foundation scholarship each year of graduate school. The funding motivates her to continue her research.
“These scholarships are particularly meaningful because they come from the individuals and companies who make up the Washington wine industry,” Gagnier said. “The funds directly support students, and that makes a positive and lasting impact.”
Stephen Onayemi: Using pheromones to stop the spread of a destructive virus
Originally from Nigeria, Stephen Onayemi was inspired to study crop production and protection as an undergraduate after witnessing his father lose nearly half of his crops to pest damage.
Onayemi obtained a master’s degree in entomology from WSU in 2021 and is pursuing a doctorate in the same subject. His current research involves using artificially produced pheromones to prevent male grape mealybugs from locating females in the vineyard. The strategy could help halt the spread of grape leafroll, a destructive disease that can decrease grape yield and wine quality.
After receiving a Washington Wine Industry Foundation scholarship last year, Onayemi was thrilled to be selected once again and plans to graduate in spring 2024.
“I was delighted and full of gratitude when I received the news. It’s a great honor to be selected,” he said. “Kudos to the Washington Wine Industry Foundation for investing in young scientists. The future of the Washington wine industry is bright!”
Madison Shaw: Envisioning a bright future as a viticulturist
Madison Shaw, a junior viticulture and enology major, connects her love of agriculture to growing up on a hobby farm. She was drawn specifically to studying wine after noticing how it brought people together.
Shaw, who is also minoring in horticulture and wine beverage business management, has already gained valuable industry experience through internships with multiple wineries. Post-college, she can envision life as a viticulturist.
“I like the vineyard side a lot,” Shaw said. “The people I’ve met and the companies I’ve worked with make me want to stay in this industry. It’s very much a team effort where enologists, growers, winemakers, and viticulturists all pull their weight to produce the final product.”
The Washington Wine Industry Foundation scholarship came as a happy surprise for Shaw.
“I was overwhelmed in the best way possible,” she said. “I’m grateful my academic efforts are being recognized, and knowing the industry believes in me is special.”
Megan Meharg: Studying how different yeasts affect smoke characteristics in wine grapes
Megan Meharg graduated from WSU in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology and a minor in soil science. She’s currently pursuing a master’s degree in food science, with plans to graduate in December 2024.
Originally intending to study veterinary medicine, Meharg was drawn to viticulture after discovering her interest in plant biology. She’s currently working on a microbiology project that examines how different yeasts affect smoke characteristics in wine grapes that have been exposed to wildfires or controlled burns. She’s also studying how aging affects the development of smoke characteristics in wine.
“The more we know about the winemaking process, the more we can finetune it to fix different issues,” Meharg said. “I feel good about why I’m here. Even if my impact is small, it’s still part of the research and eventually the solution.”
Receiving the Washington Wine Industry Foundation scholarship inspires her to give back to the Washington wine industry.
“I’m grateful for their support,” Meharg said. “It’s very encouraging and motivates me to do my part to grow our state’s wine industry.”
Pierre Davadant: Using precision viticulture to help vineyard managers
A native of Toulouse, France, Pierre Davadant’s interest in viticulture stems from fond memories of drinking wine with his grandfather, who had an extensive knowledge of terroir.
After spending 14 years in the wine industry — including a viticulture internship in California, two master’s degrees, and six years teaching viticulture and enology at a French agricultural college — Davadant is pursuing a PhD in horticulture at WSU.
He is working on a four-year project assessing levels of nitrogen and other macronutrients and micronutrients in the vineyard, with a goal of helping growers manage their vineyards in ways that are tailored to individual vines’ needs.
“We would eventually like to use a drone to make a high-resolution map with different colors highlighting nutritional status throughout the vineyard,” said Davadant, who has a projected graduation date of spring 2025. “It would help save growers time and money.”
Davadant was happy to receive the scholarship not only for the financial support, but because of what the funding represents.
“It’s a recognition of my work to improve precision viticulture in eastern Washington,” he said. “As researchers, it’s nice to have validation that the industry is interested.”