Opportunities

PhD Positions:

Two PhD positions are currently available in the Goddard Lab at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Both projects will use a combination of next-generation DNA sequencing to evaluate aspects of microbial community ecology and population biology and understand how this relates to fungal populations associated with vines and wine-making. These projects will build on a body of work in this area at the University of Auckland, be strongly aligned with the Vineyard Ecosystem’s program (https://www.nzwine.com/en/innovation/innovation-new-zealand-wine/vineyard-ecosystems/), and collaborate strongly with Plant and Food Research (http://www.plantandfood.co.nz) and New Zealand Winegrowers (https://www.nzwine.com/en).

Both projects include the cost of fees and provide a tax-free stipend of $27,000 NZD p.a. for three years.

Formal application should comprise a CV and covering letter to Dr Sarah Knight by 1st September 2017 at wineresearchnetwork@auckland.ac.nz.

Please state which project you prefer, but we will also consider combined applications to both projects. Informal enquires may be addressed to both Dr Sarah Knight and Prof Matthew Goddard (m.goddard@auckland.ac.nz).

Project 1: Microbes beyond soil

Location All enquiries and applications to:
School of Biological Sciences Dr Matthew Goddard and Dr Sarah Knight
University of Auckland wineresearchnetwork@auckland.ac.nz
New Zealand

Starting Jan 2018. Applications should comprise a CV and covering letter, with any supporting documentation as appropriate. Applications close on the 1st August 2017.

There is significant market and industry desire to produce wine in ways that maximises the quality and distinctness but does so using environmentally responsible methods that minimise impact and increase the longevity of vineyards. The MBIE Vineyard Ecosystems (VE) programme makes a paradigm shift and takes a holistic approach and focusses on a core set of sites and evaluates the impact of two main management styles on vineyard health, quality and longevity.

However, the VE programme does not consider the effects of these different management approaches on the microbial biodiversity on ripe fruit and the resulting juice. This is important as these microbial communities play a role in defining the complex mix of compounds that affect wine aroma and flavour. This project will focus on Sauvignon blanc due to its economic weight and that we understand these systems best in terms of microbial ecology and wine chemistry. While Saccharomyces yeasts are the main species that drive fermentation, the range of other species that dominate on ripe fruit, in juice and early ferment also affect key flavour compounds. This project proposes to evaluate the species present on ripe grapes and see if and how these might change leading up to harvest, into the winery and early ferment. Importantly the project will evaluate how vineyard management might affect these communities and their effect on a key set of esters and thiols.

 

Project 2: Integrating habitats in the vineyard ecosystem

Location All enquiries and applications to:
School of Biological Sciences Dr Matthew Goddard and Dr Sarah Knight
University of Auckland wineresearchnetwork@auckland.ac.nz
New Zealand

Starting Jan 2018. Applications should comprise a CV and covering letter, with any supporting documentation as appropriate. Applications close on the 1st September 2017.

The wine industry and the public in general are interested in ways to produce wine that maximises ecological sensitivity and sustainability yet produces high quality products. Our scientific understanding of how different agricultural approaches affect ecosystems as a whole is growing, but large gaps in our knowledge persist. The MBIE Vineyard Ecosystem program addresses some of these gaps, and is evaluating the effect of ‘conventional’ and ‘future’ management approaches on vineyard ecosystems across six years. Microbes and invertebrates are an important aspect of vineyard ecosystems as these define disease pressure (there are fungal, bacterial and insect pests and diseases), fruit quality, and, once in the winery, fermentation dynamics and wine quality (especially if spontaneous ferments are used). The MBIE program only has resources to evaluate biodiversity in soil as a proxy for the vineyard ecosystem; however, our very recent work shows that at a single time point in Sauvignon blanc: 1) microbial diversity differs among habitats in vineyards (soil, vine-bark, and ripe fruit); 2) that management approaches affect the diversity in each of these habitats differentially; and 3) that biodiversity in juice and thiols in final spontaneously fermented wines do not differ by management approach. Whether this pattern holds across multiple years, different regions and different varieties is thus worthy of investigation. We propose to do this here. Such a project will produce solid academic outputs and valuable information for growers and winemakers regarding the effects of management on vineyards ecosystems and the quality of the wine deriving from these, and thus is precisely aligned with the MBIE Vineyard Ecosystem program.

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