Patty Wellborn



image of vineyard

Wine grapes are particularly sensitive to drastic changes in temperatures. Even minor weather variations can jeopardize flavour and aroma development, making wine production vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Elizabeth Wolkowich photo.

In all wine-producing regions of the world, climate change is disrupting the traditional science of winemaking.

Devastating frosts and periods of intense drought and heat, combined with the danger of wild fires and smoke, have forced wine-producing regions from Bordeaux to Napa Valley to British Columbia to constantly adapt to changing and volatile conditions.

The sensitivity of wine grapes is what makes wine production so vulnerable to the effects of climatic shifts. Even minor variations in temperature can jeopardize certain flavour and aroma development, explains Dr. Jacques-Olivier Pesme—Director of UBC’s Wine Research Centre (WRC).

Dr. Pesme is moderating the Canadian portion of this week’s French Ameri-Can Climate Talks (FACT-B). Established in 2015 by the French Embassies in the United States and Canada, FACT-B is a series of high-level conferences that bring scientists, wine growers, consumers, associations and public authorities together to proactively discuss climate change and how it is affecting the wine industry.

This week, Fact B will welcome both French and local leaders to Kelowna, Vancouver and San Francisco. Dr. Pesme discusses sustainability and how wine producers may consider new practices to adapt to the forecasted climactic shifts to wine production.

How do changes in environmental conditions affect winemaking from grape to glass?

Climate change affects all aspects of our day-to-day life.

Naturally, wine does not escape the rule. The changing environmental conditions can provoke an earlier phenology/flowering which can be good in certain regions.

But not always, and this can have an impact for all aspects of wine production and in particular the harvest period. For instance, in many wine regions climate change will have an impact on higher levels of sugar and alcohol as well as lower levels of acidity in the grapes. This combination is undesirable because it will favor the production of wines that are less sharp, less bright, heavier and highly concentrated—which isn’t what consumers are looking for.

Are specific grape varieties, or wine regions, in danger?

Some wine regions may actually benefit from the forecasted shifts of climate. Typically, northern regions didn’t have the right conditions to growing grapes. For instance, the United Kingdom is interesting in that respect as we have seen the development of a new sparkling wine industry, inspired by Champagne.

However, in some parts of South Australia, around Riverland—the largest Australian winery region—it is the opposite. Heat and droughts are now so intense it raises the question of the sustainability of maintaining the production of wine grapes in some wine regions across the world.

These types of changes present significant challenges to growing grape varieties in many regions around the world. They’re not in danger per se, but as a wine region’s environmental conditions change, formerly successful varietals will no longer thrive. Take for instance, Merlot, which is the main varietal grown in Bordeaux. With climate warming, the Bordeaux region is becoming less suitable for the Merlot grape.

However, these changes could be seen to present opportunities to innovate and has led to the rediscovery and testing of long-forgotten and discarded native grape varieties—a kind of viticultural archaeology. The late ripening, acidity and resilience to climate stress of several of these ancestral varieties could withstand potentially extreme environmental conditions.

How is UBC’s Wine Research Centre (WRC) working with Canadian wine producers to help adapt to climate change?

The WRC’s mission is to support the development of a competitive and sustainable BC wine industry. We see our role is to co-create knowledge with the wine producers—knowledge produced by the B.C. region but also through collaboration with leading institutions around the world such as the Universitie de Bordeaux.

Working together with industry and researchers the work of the WRC is wide-ranging. Our group of researchers assess the effect of climate and specific environmental factors on grape ripening and composition, investigate smoke odour compounds in grapes and wines caused by wildfires, and also explore the impacts of climate change on phenolic compounds.

What could global consumers expect to see as a result—will there be higher prices or a lower quality of wine in response to environmental changes?

If we take the right measures, in a place like BC, climate change could be seen as both a challenge and an opportunity. With great conditions for producing premium wines, BC has an opportunity to invest in the wine industry in ways which are better for both for the environment and for the consumer.

One thing is for sure, climate change in BC is a game-changer, and our Centre is hoping to work alongside industry to be best prepare to adapt to those changes.

The post UBC hosts international event to discuss climate change and the wine industry appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A woman looking stressed while trying to talk on the phone and carry a baby

A new study from UBC Okanagan suggests that women and racialized faculty members were hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March 2020, the usual buzz of collaboration and creativity in research spaces at Canadian universities suddenly went silent.

COVID-19 was on the rise in Canada—and researchers were forced to cease all in-person research activities in the interest of public health.

While most would agree that all members of university communities were affected by the pandemic in some way, a new study from UBC Okanagan suggests that women and racialized faculty members were hardest hit.

Dr. Jennifer Davis, a Canada Research Chair in Applied Health Economics and lead author of a study published recently in the journal Gender, Work and Organization. Dr. Davis, an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Management, shares her research findings and insights on how to advance equity in academia.

How did this research come about?

During the onset of COVID-19, several important changes were quickly felt by those working in academia. These included the closure of research labs, the shutting down of trials, transitions to virtual classrooms and limitations on how resources were used.

While all of this was happening, I began to wonder what shifts were being felt across faculties and institutions, and how these may affect the health, wellbeing and productivity of faculty members in Canada.

What type of information were you hoping to uncover and what did you find?

I was looking to identify who was most significantly affected by these research curtailments and whether or not some groups were disproportionately affected.

My team and I rolled out a survey across public academic institutions in Canada following the initial lockdown to gauge the consequences. The data we gathered demonstrated that women and racialized faculty members said they were experiencing higher levels of stress, social isolation and lower levels of wellbeing.

Fewer women felt their health and wellness were being supported, and one example given was that they had an increased caregiving burden at home that was affecting their research productivity.

These effects were most exacerbated among pre-tenured faculty.

What did you find most interesting about your findings and how will they inform research going forward?

While our study focused on those in academia, it’s interesting to note that other studies had similar findings, particularly related to women and increased caregiving responsibilities due to COVID-19.

This illustrates that these issues were not limited to folks working in academia, as they were reported across other sectors too. In this study, we provide some recommendations for moving forward that I hope will create positive change and prevent further exacerbation of systemic inequities. 

What do you suggest to prevent a worsening of these inequities?

One of our key recommendations is to increase the use of narrative and storytelling to share the experiences of faculty members. We propose examining ways to collect and understand stories about individual repercussions of the pandemic on faculty members who conduct research.

Our research supports the idea that sharing individual experiences of the consequences of COVID-19 will foster more understanding in academia and hopefully support a sense of community among women and racialized faculty.

I’d like to think our work can also provide a path for senior administrators, or managers in other sectors, to connect directly with the experiences of marginalized faculty members or employees and engage with disparities in an effort to create more inclusive work environments.

The post UBCO researcher examines effects of university research restrictions caused by COVID-19 appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of this year's UBCO researchers of the year

From left: Dr. Margaret Macintyre Latta, Dr. Jennifer Davis Dr. Kyle Larson and Rhyann McKay.

Four UBC Okanagan researchers—whose work is making a difference locally and globally—were recognized at a special event last week when the campus celebrated the Researchers of the Year.

In a university dominated by timely and meaningful research, it’s hard to stand out in the crowd. But Phil Barker, UBCO’s Vice-Principal and Associate Vice-President of Research and Innovation, says the unique and outstanding contributions from this year’s winners allows UBCO to shine the light on their accomplishments.

“The Researcher of the Year ceremony is one of my favourite events of the year. It is a distinct pleasure to acknowledge some of our star researchers and highlight their contributions,” he says. “UBC Okanagan is one of the most rapidly expanding campuses in Canada and we are attracting top-notch scholars and researchers who are leaders in their fields.”

The winners of the prestigious awards are Dr. Jennifer Davis for health research, Dr. Kyle Larson in natural sciences and engineering and Dr. Margaret Macintyre Latta, the winner of the social sciences and humanities award. Rhyann McKay was recognized as the Student Researcher of the Year.

Teaching in the Faculty of Management, Dr. Jennifer Davis is a Canada Research Chair in Applied Health Economics. Her research focuses on improving the health of older Canadians who are at risk for falls or cognitive decline. Much of her work assesses the economic value of dementia and mobility intervention and prevention efforts through partnerships with clinicians. Dr. Davis’s international collaborations have resulted in policy change and significant advancements in applying health economic evidence to lifestyle interventions.

A professor in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, Dr. Kyle Larson is an innovator of analytical techniques for tectonics research. His novel methods have led to fundamental discoveries about how major mountain belts form, including a solution to a decades-old geological controversy surrounding the origin of the Himalayas. As Director of the Fipke Laboratory for Trace Element Research, Dr. Larson’s work has helped develop paradigm-shifting methods for the rapid dating of geological material.

Teaching in the Okanagan School of Education, Dr. Margaret Macintyre Latta is a prominent researcher who transforms traditional approaches to education. A champion of interdisciplinary and community-based research, her focus is to advance curriculum as a shared learning experience that inspires reconciliation. Her research with Indigenous, school district and community partners helps educators to decolonize curriculum and teaching practices.

As a doctoral student in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, Rhyann McKay conducted research in partnership with provincial spinal cord injury organizations across Canada to co-develop behaviour change interventions for support providers to enhance wellbeing and self-care. McKay is currently a health system impact fellow at the University of Alberta, evaluating the implementation of acute care intervention.

“The purpose of these awards is to highlight and honour the research excellence that makes UBC a top-40 global university,” adds Dr. Barker. “I am impressed with the calibre of all our researchers, grateful for their efforts, and am very proud of this year’s recipients. I look forward to tracking their careers and celebrating their future successes.”

The post UBCO celebrates the researchers of the year appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A graphic that says Life Raft Debate

What: Fourth annual Life Raft Debate
Who: UBC professors debate to win a seat in a time machine and change history
When: Wednesday, January 26, beginning at 7 pm
Venue: Online, virtual event

Once again, UBC Okanagan professors are being called upon to share their expertise and help save the world. But this year, it involves going back in time to right the wrongs of humanity.

The annual Life Raft Debate is a fun way to showcase the talents of professors by using an “end-of-the-world” premise, explains Lyndsey Chesham, Society of Scholars Program Assistant and a fourth-year microbiology student. The professors must do their best to sway the audience to earn the last seat on the life raft. However, this year it’s a seat in a time machine.

“For this year’s debate, humans have made an irrevocable mistake leading to our demise,” Chesham says. “Our only option is an experimental time machine capable of sending someone on a one-way trip to the first known human civilization.”

The catch? There is only one seat in the time machine. Not only must the time traveller win the debate, they must—without any modern technology—be able to influence society to not make the same mistakes. It’s up to them to prevent the downfall of the human race.

“Our traveller must assert the importance of their discipline in order to lead the ancient society, fix the mistakes of the past, and lead us to a brighter, more promising future,” adds Chesham. “But we must also question if it is even worth sending anyone back at all. It’s up to our audience to decide who we send, or if we even bother.”

Competing for the chance to time travel include chemistry’s Dr. Tamara Freeman, creative writing’s Michael V. Smith, engineering’s Dr. Vicki Komisar, psychology’s Dr. Liane Gabora and management’s Tamara Ebl. Associate Dean of Research Dr. Dean Greg Garrard will play the role of devil’s advocate, suggesting no one deserves to go back in time.

After all the words are spoken, the audience—using Zoom technology—will decide if someone does go back and restart society. And who it will be.

“The Society of Scholars brought this student-led event to UBCO to give students a chance to get to know their professors through the scope of a light-hearted and fun event,” adds Chesham. “Our debaters get very passionate and it is wonderful to see the professors speak about their life’s work so enthusiastically.”

New this year will be opening remarks from UBC President Santa Ono and closing remarks from UBCO’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Lesley Cormack.

The Life Raft Debate takes place Wednesday, January 26 at 7 pm. It is a free, virtual presentation and follows with a question and answer session. To register or find out more, visit:

A photo of a row of wine bottles

UBC Okanagans researchers have been exploring BC’s wine identity and recently published a paper explaining why identity matters for a wine-producing territory.

It’s wine season in the Okanagan and wineries are busy harvesting crops and producing vintages to be enjoyed in the years to come.

While many people may have an image of what the Okanagan wine region looks like, researchers at UBC’s Wine Research Centre (WRC) say there is a lot more to the identity of a wine region and the wider territory than what many might think.

Working across both campuses, the WRC, which is part of the Social Economic Change Laboratory and headquartered in the Okanagan, conducts research in enology, viticulture, management and social sciences. It engages with industry and communities on the challenges of wine territory development.

Researchers at UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Management Jacques-Olivier Pesme, Roger Sugden, Malida Mooken, Marcela Valania and Kim Buschert recently published a paper presenting a four-step process to engage a wine territory in reflecting on its identity.

Mooken explains why a wine territory’s identity is important.

Your research talks about a specific identity for a wine-producing region. Does this include all of BC?

Our work emphasizes the value of a shared identity for a wine-producing territory. In this case, we consider BC as a wine-producing territory, comprising several wine regions including the Okanagan Valley, Vancouver Island, Fraser Valley, Gulf Islands, Similkameen Valley, Kootenays, Lillooet, Shuswap and Thompson Valley.

Can you explain the concept of identity?

One can start exploring the concept of identity through three simple questions: Who are we? What do we aspire to do and become? How do others perceive us? However, a reflective process is necessary to get to meaningful answers.

When applied at a territorial level, the concept of identity is collective, shaped by natural and human attributes. Relationships between people and the environment, history, culture and associated social, economic and political factors all play a part in what and how identity is formed, by whom and for which purposes.

Why does identity matter for a wine-producing territory, and what are your observations with regard to BC?

Consciously reflecting on, shaping and communicating its identity are fundamental steps for any wine territory to differentiate itself, and operate in the highly competitive world of wine.

An industry-commissioned report estimates the overall economic impact of the BC wine industry in 2015 at more than $2.5 billion, with direct and indirect employment exceeding 10,000. Despite its recent growth, BC is still not a globally recognized wine territory.

With growing competition on the Canadian wine market, a collective approach with an authentic identity would limit the effect of dispersed action across the territory and strengthen BC’s position vis- à-vis other wine territories at provincial, national and international levels.

Some studies have reported a lack of territorial cohesion across BC wine regions. A shared identity contributes to that cohesion. For example, it has been argued that the process of developing a shared identity can support initiatives such as collective quality enhancement, which is crucial for relatively young wine regions. Such developments provide a strong foundation for communication strategies that enhance territorial reputation, recognition by audiences and government support.

What challenges are faced when an emerging wine-producing territory like BC tries pinning down its own identity?

Identity is not static and it would defeat the purpose to try and pin it down. It evolves continuously, shaped by the choice, behaviour and action of individuals or groups.

For an emerging wine-producing territory like BC, with significant geographical distance between wine regions and diverse industry actors—each with its own values, ambitions and strategies—shared attributes may be hard to define. The lack of proximity might impede the development of strong relations and collective efforts. There is also a potential gap between the image built around an idyllic development that some people may aspire to and the need for a consistent story that reflects the true nature of the territory, with its own local ecological and economic realities.

What sort of work have you been doing with the wine industry, specifically on the topic of identity?

Our group at UBC has been engaging with the wine industry since 2012 in the context of territorial development. Creating independent, safe learning environments to facilitate collective knowledge on a number of issues is a prominent feature of our work.

Most recently, we developed a four-step iterative process to explore BC’s identity as a wine-producing territory. Those are understanding identity, identifying commonalities and differences, developing a shared narrative and sharing best practices. More than 50 wineries across BC participated through workshops, interviews and other conversations.

Discussions included themes such as terroir, authenticity, expression and narrative. Participants realized that there were commonalities to build on and differences to value. For example, a commonality stressed was the presence and importance of small family wineries and farms within as well as beyond the wine industry.

The interaction with industry has shown that there is significant interest in exploring identity, but more time and understanding are required for it to develop a shared narrative. We are also aware that more voices need to be included in the process; for example, grape growers and other communities.

In 2015, UBC received funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada for a three-year period, for work on the international positioning of the BC wine industry. This research, published earlier this summer in the International Journal of Wine Business Research is associated with that project.

Thought leaders and community organizations share their vision of the region

What: Rainmaking@Okanagan: A webinar with speakers from across the Okanagan to discuss socio-economic change
Who: Co-hosted by UBC Okanagan and the Good City Foundation
When: Tuesday, June 1 and Wednesday, June 2 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Zoom webinar

There’s little doubt that small and medium-sized cities and regions around the world are facing a period of unprecedented change to their social and economic fabrics — and the Okanagan is no different.

Rainmaking@Okanagan invites the community, both locally and globally, to explore innovative solutions that will address issues such as community resilience, smart cities, future skills training through higher education, and research innovation with community partners.

This event, co-hosted by UBC Okanagan and the Good City Foundation, will take place over two evenings and aims to showcase recent as well as future socio-economic changes in the Okanagan region.

Tuesday, June 1, will feature a panel discussion with speakers from UBCO, the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission and the Central Okanagan Foundation. On Wednesday, June 2, the Rainmaking@Okanagan event will feature a virtual roadshow with innovative local organizations, including Skytrac, Mamas for Mamas, Happipad and the UBC Wine Research Centre.

Rainmaking@Okanagan is part of the Rainmaking Series launched by the Good City Foundation

The online event is free and open to the public. Advance registration is required at:

About the Rainmaking Series

The Rainmaking Series and Tech For Good Cities Roadshow is a set of virtual global top-notch thought leadership dialogue and technology roadshows. Rainmaking Series follows the StartmeupHK Festival 2021 to host virtually over 10 strategic locations in emerging Asia, Africa and North America during May 24  and June 2. Each session of the respective countries in the Rainmaking Series is hosted with a local strategic partner to explore their largest policy innovation and wicked technology development agenda that echoes the Sustainable Development Goals and the Great Reset, such as Climate Resilience, Carbon Zero in Future Housing, Future Skills, Preparation for the Next Pandemic Uncertainty and Digital Economic Stability. 

Find out more about the virtual Rainmaking Series 2021: 

Shane Koyczan

Canadian poet and spoken word artist Shane Koyczan will address the UBCO graduating class of 2021.

Virtual ceremony recognizes more than 1,800 graduating students

UBC Okanagan is marking its second virtual convocation next week.

More than 1,850 graduates — including 1,600 undergraduates as well as more than 100 masters and doctoral students — will tune in to celebrate the success of their educational journey.

“This has been a remarkable year for our students and our faculty,” says Lesley Cormack, deputy vice-chancellor and principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus. “While the ceremony will be virtual, the remarkable achievements of our students are very real and worthy of recognition. I invite everyone to join me in celebrating the Class of 2021.”

There are also some new faces in the procession of dignitaries that will congratulate the graduates this year. UBC’s 19th Chancellor, the Honourable Steven Point (xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl), will preside over the ceremony, his first since taking on the role of chancellor last year. And this will be Cormack’s first convocation since joining the university in July 2020.

“Coming to UBC Okanagan during a time when our students are learning remotely has indeed been interesting,” Cormack adds. “Through it all, our students have shown remarkable fortitude while learning and conducting research online. I commend them all for their accomplishments.”

Once the ceremony has begun, UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono will address the Class of 2021 live, dressed in full academic regalia and graduates will have an opportunity to take a virtual selfie with President Ono. Along with a congratulatory message from Cormack, graduates will also hear inspiring words from student speakers Ali Poostizadeh, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and Blessing Adeagbo, who has earned a Bachelor of Human Kinetics.

Another highlight of the 50-minute ceremony will be a keynote address from Shane Koyczan. The Canadian poet and spoken word artist will honour the perseverance and resilience of the 2021 graduating class. His message, written from the heart, will inspire all viewers, Cormack adds.

UBC Okanagan’s graduating class will celebrate their accomplishments virtually on June 2, starting at 2:30 p.m. Students and their family members can watch the ceremony on YouTube, Facebook or Panopto, a platform that is accessible from many countries.

To find out more about the virtual convocation ceremony, visit:

This year’s medal recipients

Governor General’s Gold Medal: Sandra Fox

Lieutenant Governor’s Medal Program for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation: Aidan O’Callahan

UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Jade Zitko

UBC Medal in Arts: Michelle Tucsok

UBC Medal in Science: Jakob Thoms

UBC Medal in Education: Patricia Perkins

UBC Medal in Nursing: Alex Halonen

UBC Medal in Management: Breanne Ruskowsky

UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Marika Harris

UBC Medal in Engineering: Rohan Ikebuchi

UBC Medal in Media Studies Sydney Bezenar

Virtual ceremony celebrates social and technological innovation

It is award season, and not just in the entertainment industry.

Last Thursday at a special virtual ceremony, UBC Okanagan researchers were honoured for their innovative and groundbreaking work.

At the ceremony, Dr. Phil Barker, UBCO’s vice-principal and associate vice-president of research and innovation, announced the campus’s four researchers of the year. The awards recognize those who have made a significant contribution to research in the areas of natural sciences and engineering, social sciences and humanities, and health. A graduate student is also honoured annually at this event.

The research highlighted — from wireless technology to psychedelic-drug assisted therapy to diabetes research and tackling social inequalities — demonstrates the breadth of impact UBCO researchers are having locally, nationally and internationally, says Dr. Barker.

“This is one of my favourite times of the year, when I have the pleasure of acknowledging some of our star researchers and highlighting their contributions,” he says. “UBC’s Okanagan campus is one of the most rapidly expanding campuses in Canada and we continue to attract top-notch scholars and researchers.”

Natural Sciences and Engineering Researcher of the year: Dr. Julian Cheng

This year, Dr. Julian Cheng was named the natural sciences and engineering researcher of the year. Dr. Cheng is an expert in digital communications and signal processing.

He has many patents and has recently invented an indoor optical wireless location technique that improves receiver accuracy and will allow precise control of robot movement. His research also includes an intra-body communication device using wireless technology that will benefit health-care systems.

Health Research of the Year: Dr. Jonathan Little

When it comes to health research, Dr. Jonathan Little has been investigating improved treatments and possible prevention of Type 2 diabetes.

Much of his work revolves around the impact of healthy eating and exercise to stave off metabolic disease. He works with several partner organizations to improve the lives of people living with chronic illness and disease. Dr. Little also leads the Airborne Disease Transmission Research Cluster, a cross-campus research team that aims to lessen the airborne transmission of COVID-19 and other airborne illnesses.

Social Sciences and Humanities Research of the Year: Dr. Eric Li

Dr. Eric Li, the winner of the social sciences and humanities award, is an expert on social trends and a champion for the underdog.

His research focuses on interdisciplinary collaborations with non-profit organizations and local government to improve social inequities. His overreaching goal is to improve the lives of everyday people around the world. Through his community-based research, he has made an impact on food insecurity, poverty, urban densification and rural community building in our region.

Graduate Student Research of the Year: Michelle St. Pierre

Doctoral student Michelle St. Pierre has been honoured for her work in substance use and mental health, with a focus on cannabis and psychedelic use and harm reduction.

She has made significant research breakthroughs in how people cope with pain and pain sensitivity. As a founder of the UBC Okanagan chapter of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, St. Pierre has received international media attention for her research on cannabinoid-based analgesics and is a national expert on cannabis policy.

“The purpose of these awards is to highlight and honour the research excellence that makes UBC a top 40 global university,” adds Dr. Barker. “I am impressed with the calibre of all our researchers and am very proud of this year’s recipients. I look forward to their future successes.”

Collective evidence suggests exercise can reduce fall rates in older adults by 21 per cent.

Collective evidence suggests exercise can reduce fall rates in older adults by 21 per cent.

Fall prevention key to keeping older adults healthy and saving health care dollars

Dr. Jennifer Davis, along with many UBCO researchers, spends much of her time looking for ways to keep our older adult population healthy. An assistant professor in the Faculty of Management, her goal is to improve the quality of life of older Canadians through health-economic evaluations and health-outcomes research.

Much of her work looks at fall prevention and keeping older adults functioning independently. As co-director of operations of the Falls Prevention Clinic at Vancouver General Hospital, she discusses the importance of healthy aging as well as the health and cost-implications of falls to older adults.

You recently published a paper in Maturitas examining the risk factors for recurrent falls in older adults. Can you explain why falls are so dangerous for older adults?

Falls, and injuries resulting from falls, represent a significant health burden for older adults as well as their families and caregivers. About one-third of adults aged 65 years and older experience at least one fall annually with half of these people falling more than once a year.

In fact, falls in older adults are the third leading cause of chronic disability. About 95 per cent of hip fractures are associated with a fall, and 10 to 15 per cent of emergency department visits for those aged 65 years and older—most often hip, wrist or spine—are related to a fall.

Non-fatal fall injuries are associated with decreased functional independence, such as the ability to carry out daily activities, lower quality of life, decreased mobility and increased risk of a future fall-related injury.

Your research points out it’s not just a matter of balance and mobility. What are the other factors that lead to falls?

The risk of falling increases with age. Women also experience fall-related fractures, such as the hip, wrist or spine, at almost twice the rate of men. Factors that lead to falls include issues such as impaired mobility and balance, taking multiple medications—sometimes four or more—and neuromuscular and sensory impairments. Other areas of concern include medical co-morbidities, environmental factors such as indoor and outdoor tripping hazards, psychological factors and sociodemographic factors.

One of your recent studies examines adherence to a strength and balance retraining exercise program for older adults. Can you explain why such a program is beneficial when it comes to preventing falls?

Collective evidence suggests exercise can reduce fall rates in older adults by 21 per cent. When exercise interventions include balance exercises for at least three hours per week, there is an even greater reduction in the rate of falls.

A home-based exercise program, the Otago Exercise Program, has demonstrated a 36 per cent reduction in the rate of falls among those who have already experienced a fall and a similar 40 per cent reduction in the rate of falls for first-time fallers.

Yet, adherence to exercise is often 50 per cent or lower. We recently found that cognitive processes—including executive function of set-shifting, attention and short-term memory, along with functional mobility—predict exercise adherence. Further research needs to explore how modifying these factors may promote adherence to exercise and thus, contribute to fall prevention.

While healthy aging and independence are vital, can you explain the economic side to keeping our older adults safe?

Ultimately, a goal of identifying the economic burden of falls is to inform future policy decisions regarding investment or disinvestment. To adequately address falls and the burden of fall-related injury, it is essential to first quantify the burden of falls and then establish evidence of the value for money of effective fall prevention strategies. I’ve previously demonstrated the best value for money comes from targeting prevention towards high-risk groups.

Specifically, three proven cost-saving strategies for falls include: 1) a multi-level program targeted those with higher risk factors for falling was cost saving; 2) the Otago Exercise Program was cost-saving when delivered to people aged over 80 years; and 3) a home safety program was cost-saving for those recently discharged from hospital, if delivered to older adults who sustained a previous fall.

Can you highlight some basic tips that will help keep our elderly population healthy?

Here are a few important healthy aging tips to keep in mind.

  • Exercise: Regular exercise helps maintain strength and balance. A little bit of exercise every day can provide many benefits, especially exercises that focus on leg and core strengthening, like balancing on one foot. A physician or physical therapist can provide guidance and information about local exercise classes
  • Medication review: Some medications can increase the risk of falls due to side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness, or drug interactions. Review medications with your family doctor regularly.
  • Vision assessment: A regular visit to an eye doctor will ensure eye prescriptions are up to date. Bifocals may increase your risk of falling.
  • Home safety assessment: Older adults are advised to avoiding walking in socks or stockings and to keep rooms well lit and free of clutter. Safety equipment—such as railings on both sides of stairways, grab bars by the shower, tub and toilet in the bathroom—should be installed.
  • Safe footwear: A good way to prevent slipping is to wear rubber-soled shoes or shoes with good traction and use handrails when available.
UBC’s Wine Research Centre, located on the Okanagan campus, is dedicated to fostering cooperation between academic institutions, the wine industry sector and communities around the world.

UBC’s Wine Research Centre, located on the Okanagan campus, is dedicated to fostering cooperation between academic institutions, the wine industry sector and communities around the world.

Wine Research Centre will expand its presence across both UBC campuses

The renowned wine region of BC’s Okanagan Valley now boasts a new research hub, as UBC shifts the headquarters of its acclaimed Wine Research Centre (WRC) from its Vancouver campus to its Kelowna-based campus.

The move provides the WRC with a dual-campus presence in Vancouver and the Okanagan, where researchers have developed strong collaborations with the BC wine community. The WRC, one of only two such research centres in Canada, will be led by its newly-appointed director Jacques-Olivier Pesme. A founding member of the Board of the Institute of Vine and Wine Science in Bordeaux, France, Pesme has been working with UBC since 2012 as special advisor to the dean of the Faculty of Management.

“The Okanagan is an ideal environment for the next chapter of the WRC,” Pesme says. “All the major research and education wine institutes in the world are situated in close proximity to vineyards, wineries and wine visitors. The WRC will combine operations between the Okanagan—home to more than 80 per cent of BC vineyard acreage, and Vancouver—a gateway to the world.”

First established in 1999 on the Vancouver campus, the WRC is dedicated to interdisciplinary research, education and development, with a core mission to support a sustainable Canadian grape and wine industry. It brings together researchers, faculty and staff from across UBC as well as Canadian and international partner institutions to undertake cutting-edge research in oenology, viticulture, management and social sciences. The WRC also provides academic and extended education, and engages closely with industry and wider communities.

“We are thrilled by this development of the Wine Research Centre,” says UBCO’s Provost and Vice-President Academic Ananya Mukherjee Reed. “This is an important step towards the university’s mandate as a partner in regional socio-economic development. Wine research in the Okanagan provides experiential learning opportunities for students, accelerates innovation and creates an opportunity for strengthening connections with our industry partners.”

The changes at the WRC will enhance UBC’s wine research and education, while supporting and stimulating the provincial economy. BC’s wine industry has an annual impact of $2.8 billion and employs about 12,000 people.

“The WRC will bring together researchers from both UBC campuses, and build upon contributions to cutting-edge wine research conducted in facilities like the Michael Smith Laboratories on the Vancouver campus over the past two decades,” says Roger Sugden, dean of the Faculty of Management and a core contributor to the WRC. “BC’s wine industry has a major influence on the economy and society of regions across the province. The WRC will help the industry, and communities across the territory, to shape that influence by sharing knowledge and offering opportunities to explore different possibilities.”

Among the WRC’s new initiatives are plans for a sensory analysis lab in Kelowna. It will feature research facilities and offer programs for the public to learn about wine tasting, oenology and the local industry.

Ongoing WRC initiatives include the annual Wine Leaders Forum—now in its seventh year—where wine owners and principals come together with researchers for strategic planning. The WRC also conducts industry seminars and workshops across the province, and maintains UBC’s Wine Library in Vancouver which currently houses more than 4,500 bottles of wine from all over the world.

“Because the WRC is now headquartered in the heart of BC’s wine country, it is well-positioned to engage even more deeply with growers, wineries, tourists and residents,” says Pesme. “I am excited to be guiding the centre in its role as a contributor to the continued growth and the success of this rapidly changing wine territory, and especially to reinforce its international reputation.”


The Wine Research Centre is a unique research and education centre that supports the development of a sustainable Canadian grape and wine industry through world-class research, excellence in wine education, applied solutions and knowledge exchange.

The Wine Research Centre operates across UBC campuses in Vancouver and the Okanagan, where it is headquartered. It conducts cutting-edge research in oenology, viticulture, management, and social sciences; provides academic and extended education; and engages with industry and communities on the challenges of wine territory development.

The centre is dedicated to fostering cooperation between academic institutions, the wine industry sector, and communities around the world in a way that encourages growth with integrity and inclusivity. Its ethos is one of rigorous curiosity and open-minded collaboration while pursuing excellence.

BC’s wine industry by the numbers

  • 929 vineyards, including more than 350 licensed wineries
  • More than 60 grape varietals produced
  • $2.8 billion annual economic impact on the province
  • About 12,000 people employed
  • Top international markets include China (54 per cent); Taiwan (23 per cent) and the United States (11 per cent)
  • 14.5 million litres of BC wine sold in the province annually
  • 84 per cent of BC vineyards are in the Okanagan

Sources: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; WineBC