2018 UC MEXUS-CONACYT Collaborative Grant Awards

The 2019 UC MEXUS-CONACYT Collaborative Research Grants competition provided grant awards to 40 projects with teams of UC and Mexican researchers. The grant program is offered to provide seed funds for collaborative UC-Mexico projects at the start-up phase of their development. The Co-Principal Investigators, departments, home UC campuses and Mexican institutions, and project titles of the grantrecipients are listed below.

Ludmil B. Alexandrov, Cellular and Molecular Medicine, UC San Diego Carla Daniela Robles Espinoza, Laboratorio Internacional de Investigación sobre el Genoma Humano, UNAM

Identification of germline DNA variants that influence the tumour somatic profile in melanoma / Identificación de variantes genéticas de línea germinal que influyen en el perfil somático del melanoma

Raul Andino-Pavlovsky, Microbiology and Immunology, UC San Francisco Humberto Lanz Mendoza, Centro de Investigación sobre Enfermedades Infecciosas, INSP

Leveraging mosquito antiviral immunity to detect viral infection: Towards a scalable field-based approach for predicting arbovirus epidemics / Usando la inmunidad antiviral para detectar infecciones virales: Hacia una estrategia de predicción de epidemias causadas por arbovirus

J. Michael Beman, Life and Environmental Science, UC Merced José Quinatzin García Maldonado, Recursos del Mar, CINVESTAV-IPN, Mérida

Metagenomics and microbial ecology of carbon cycling and sinks in the water column and sediments of the Eastern Pacific Ocean / Metagenómica y Ecología Microbiana del ciclo del carbono y sumideros en la columna de agua y sedimentos del Este del Oceano Pacífico

Alan Bennett, Plant Sciences, UC Davis Javier López-Baltazar, Ingenierías, Instituto Tecnológico del Valle de Oaxaca

Nitrogen fixation associated with an indigenous landrace of maize / Fijación de nitrógeno asociada a una variedad autóctona de maíz

Fabian Bombardelli, Civil and Environmental Engineering, UC Davis Amaia Ruíz de Alegría-Arzaburu, Instituto de Investigaciones Oceanológicas, UABC

Understanding physical processes and water-quality transport mechanisms in Californian small coastal inlets for resilient coastal systems under scenarios of climate change / Entendiendo los procesos físicos y los mecanismos de transporte de calidad de aguas en pequeñas ensenadas costeras de California para obtener sistemas costeros resilientes bajo escenarios de cambio climático

James Borneman, Microbiology and Plant Pathology, UC Riverside Edgardo Alfredo Sepúlveda Sánchez Hidalgo, Microbiología, CICESE

Bioprospecting and Characterization of Microbial Communities / Bioprospección y Caracterización de Comunidades Microbianas

Paulo C. Chagas, Music, UC Riverside Jorge Rodrigo Sigal Sefchovich, Música y Tecnología Artística/CMMAS, Escuela Nacional de Estudios Superiores, UNAM, Campus Morelia

Sound, Space, and Affect in Immersive Sound Systems / Sonido, espacio y afecto en los sistemas de sonido imersivo

Camille Crittenden, CITRIS, UC Berkeley Fernando Gutiérrez and Dora García-González, Escuela de Humanidades y Educación, ITESM

Equidad Digital: The social and human rights impacts of AI-enabled decision-making in Mexico / Equidad digital: Impactos sociales y en los derechos humanos de la toma de decisiones habilitada por la IA en México

Katayoon Dehesh, Institute for Integrative Genome Biology, UC Riverside Patricia León Mejía, Biología Molecular de Plantas, Instituto de Biotecnología, UNAM

Defining transcriptional and posttranslational dynamics of the MEP pathway regulation / Definiendo la dinámica de la regulación transcripcional y postranscripcional de la vía MEP en plantas

Ruth Finkelstein, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, UC Santa Barbara Fabioloa Jaimes Miranda, Biología Molecular, Instituto Potosino de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica, A.C.

Experimental reconstruction of ABA-ethylene gene regulatory network interactions in tomato fruit ripening / Reconstrucción experimental de la red de regulación transcripcional de la interacción ABA- etileno en la maduración del fruto de jitomate

Winifred Frick, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz Verónica Zamora Gutiérrez, Academia de Ecología y Sistemática, Centro Interdisciplinario de Investigación para el Desarrollo Integral Regional-IPN, Unidad Durango

Tracking bats for conservation: A collaborative study on the foraging behavior of nectar-feeding bats / Rastreando murciélagos por la conservación: Estudio colaborativo sobre el comportamiento de forrajeo de los murciélagos nectarívoros

Matthew Gilbert, Plant Sciences, UC Davis José C. Cervera Herrera, Ecología Tropical, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán

Impact of leaf width on water use efficiency and drought tolerance of tepary beans / Impacto del grosor de hoja sobre la eficiencia de uso de agua y tolerancia a la sequia de frijol

Erin Hamilton, Sociology, UC Davis Silvia E. Giorguli-Saucedo, Centro de Estudios Demograficos, Urbanos, y Ambientales, El Colegio de México

Understanding Child Migration from the United States to Mexico / Comprendiendo la migración de menores desde Estados Unidos a México

Robert M. Irwin, Spanish and Portuguese, UC Davis Maricruz Castro Ricalde, Escuela de Humanidades y Educación, ITESM Luis Rodolfo Morán Quiroz, Sociología, Universidad de Guadalajara Abraham Paniagua, Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua

Humanizing Deportation: A Digital Storytelling Project / Humanizando la Deportación: Un Proyecto de Narrativa Digital

Jay Keasling, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Bioengineering, UC Berkeley Cuauhtémoc Licona-Cassani, Centro de Biotecnologia FEMSA, ITESM

An evolution-guided synthetic biology approach to accelerate early-stage natural product discovery / Diseño de un sistema de biología sintética basado en conceptos evolutivos para acelerar etapas tempranas del descubrimiento de productos naturales

Ermias Kebreab, Animal Science, UC Davis Octavio Alonso Castelán Ortega, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, UNAM

Development of the enteric methane emissions inventory for cattle in Mexico through in vivo and in silico methodologies / Desarrollo del inventario de emisiones de metano por fermentación enterica para el ganado bovino de México a través del uso de metodologías in vivo e in silico

Arturo Keller, School of Environmental Science and Management, UC Santa Barbara Cristina del Carmen Torres-Duarte, Tecnología Ambiental, Centro de Investigación y Asistencia en Tecnología y Diseño del Estado de Jalisco

Magnetic permanently confined micelle arrays (Mag-PCMAs) for the elimination of emerging contaminants from environmental samples from Lake Chapala / Arreglos de micelas magnéticas permanentemente confinadas (Mag-PCMAs) para la eliminación de contaminantes emergentes de muestras ambientales del Lago de Chapala

Yat Li, Chemistry and Biochemistry, UC Santa Cruz Beatriz Liliana España Sánchez, Lilian Iraís Olvera Garza, and José Antonio Avila Niño, Subdirección de Procesos Industriales y Recubrimientos, Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo Tecnológico en Electroquímica, S.C.

Polymer Derived Carbon Nanostructures for Lithium-Sulfur Batteries / Nanocompuestos poliméricos con nanoestructuras de carbono para Baterias de Litio-Azufre

David López-Carr, Geography, UC Santa Barbara Armando Sánchez Vargas, Instituto de Investigación Económica, UNAM

Extreme Heat and Migrant Workers: Enhancing Health Resilience and Productivity / Trabajadores migrantes y calor extremo: Mejorar la resiliencia y la productividad de la salud

Rachel W. Martin, Chemistry, UC Irvine Vera Liliana Quintanar, Química, CINVESTAV-IPN

Spectroscopic and Biophysical Investigation of Metal-Ion Induced Aggregation of Eye Lens Proteins / Investigación espectroscópica y biofísica de la agregación inducida por iones metálicos de proteínas del lente ocular

Monica Martinez, Mechanical and Chemical & Environmental Engineering, UC Riverside Francisco Cuenca Jiménez, División de Ingeniería Mecánica e Industrial, UNAM

Engineering a new generation of underwater robots / Desarrollo de una nueva generación de submarinos robóticos

(GEORGE BROWN AWARD)

Jennifer B. H. Martiny, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Irvine Ana Elena Escalante Hernández, Instituto de Ecología, UNAM

Functional significance of microbial diversity in arid soils: Biological soil crusts and nitrogen fixation as study model / La relevancia funcional de la diversidad microbiana en suelos áridos: Costras biológicas y fijación de Nitrógeno como modelo de estudio

Robin Matoza, Earth Science, UC Santa Barbara Maria Alejandra Arciniega Ceballos, Vulcanología, Instituto de Geofísica, UNAM

Seismic and infrasonic signature of explosive eruptions at Popocatépetl volcano, México / Firma sísmica e infrasónica de erupciones explosivas en el volcán Popocatépetl, México

Sandra I. McCoy, Epidemiology, UC Berkeley Sergio Bautista-Arredondo, Centro de Investigación en Sistemas de Salud, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública

Towards rigorous innovation: Combining human-centered design, behavioral science, and impact evaluation for public health / Hacia una innovación rigurosa: Combinando el Diseño Centrado en Humanos, las Ciencias del Comportamiento y la Evaluación de Impacto para la salud pública

Dawn Nagel, Botany and Plant Sciences, UC Riverside Julián Mario Peña Castro, Instituto de Biotecnología, Universidad del Papaloapan

Circadian clock control and biotechnological potential of carbon-conservation regulators belonging to the bZIP transcription factors in plants / El control por el reloj circadiano y el potencial biotecnológico de los reguladores de conservación de carbono pertenecientes a los factores de transcripción bZIP en plantas

Matthew Settles, Bioinformatics Core, Genome Center, UC Davis Angélica Cibrián Jaramillo, Laboratorio Nacional de Genómica para la Biodiversidad, Genómica Avanzada, CINVESTAV-IPN

Genomics of vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) and its microbiomes / Genómica de la vainilla (Vanilla planifolia) y la microbiomes

Martha Lucia Orozco-Cárdenas, Botany and Plant Sciences, UC Riverside Abraham Cruz-Mendívil, Biotecnología Agrícola, CIIDIR-IPN, Sinaloa

In vitro culture and genetic transformation of papache (Randia echinocarpa), a medicinal plant from northwestern Mexico / Cultivo in vitro y transformación genética de papache (Randia echinocarpa), una planta medicinal del noroeste de México

Qibing Pei, Materials Science and Engineering, UC Los Angeles Jorge Roberto Oliva Uc, Cerámicos y Polímeros, Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Efficient and Low-Cost Multicolor Light-Emitting Electrochemical Cells for Electronic Paper Applications / Celdas Electroquímicas Emisoras de Luz Eficientes y de Bajo Costo para Aplicaciones de Papel Electrónico

Erica Rosenblum, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley Gabriela Parra Olea, Zoologia, Instituto de Biología, UNAM

Quitridiomycosis in Mexico: Historical and current impact of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in critically endangered species of amphibians / La quitridiomicosis en anfibios de México: Impacto histórico y actual por la presencia de Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis en especies en peligro crítico de extinción

Martin Tresguerres, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego Gloria Yépiz-Plascencia, Tecnología de Alimentos de Origen Animal, Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo, A.C.

Role of Glyceraldehyde phosphate dehydrogenase in the response to hypoxia in the white shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei / Gliceraldehido fosfato deshidrogenasa en la respuesta a la hipoxia en el camarón blanco Litopenaeus vannamei

Jose Pablo Vázquez-Medina, Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley Tania Zenteno-Savín, Programa de Planeación Ambiental y Conservación, CIBNOR, S.C. Jorge Urbán Ramírez, Biología Marina, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur

Cellular models for the study of stress responses in baleen whales / Modelos celulares para el estudio de respuestas a estrés en ballenas barbadas

Ameae Walker, Biomedical Sciences, UC Riverside Teresa Morales Guzmán, Instituto de Neurobiología, UNAM

Prolactin Modulation of Microglial Function During Kainic Acid-Induced Excitotoxicity / Modulación de la Función Microglial por Prolactina Durante la Excitotoxicidad Inducida por Ácido Kaínico

José Wudka, Physics and Astronomy, UC Riverside Eduardo Peinado Rodríguez, Física Teórica del Instituto de Física, UNAM

Dark Matter and Neutrino Physics / Materia oscura y física de neutrinos

Pamela Yeh, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Los Angeles Ayari Fuentes Hernández, Laboratorio de Biología de Sistemas y Biología Sintética, Centro de Ciencias Genómicas, UNAM

Multi-scale approaches to understanding and combating the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria: From single cells to populations / Enfoque multiescalas para entender y combatir la evolución de resistencia a antibióticos: Desde células individuales hasta poblaciones

Melanoma is one of the most aggressive human malignancies and one of the few cancers that have increased their incidence during the past three decades. Many genetic loci that increase the risk for developing melanoma have been discovered through genome-wide association studies (GWAS), however, the biological mechanisms by which these exert their effects remain mostly unknown. The genome of a cancer is peppered with somatic mutations, which can be caused by a variety of endogenous and/or exogenous mutational processes. Each mutational process imprints a characteristic pattern of somatic mutations on the genome of cells, termed ‘mutational signature’. Most mutations in melanoma have been attributed to the mutational signatures of ultraviolet light; however, other mutational signatures of unknown aetiology are also present. Previously, we and others have shown that specific germline variants, including loci uncovered by GWAS, can influence the accumulation of somatic mutations in cancer genomes. In this project, we propose to perform a comprehensive analysis of previously generated sequencing and genotyping melanoma data to elucidate germline variants that influence the somatic landscape of this cancer. Our results will provide an unprecedented understanding of the influence of germline variations on the accumulation of somatic mutations in cancer genomes.

Ludmil B. Alexandrov, Cellular and Molecular Medicine, UC San Diego
Carla Daniela Robles Espinoza, Laboratorio Internacional de Investigación sobre el Genoma Humano, UNAM

Arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) represent a huge public health burden globally mainly due to the vector activity of blood-feeding mosquitos such as Aedes aegypti. In the face of the expanding range of numerous arboviruses outbreaks, improved surveillance methods and vector control strategies are required. We seek to implement novel findings relating to the antiviral immune response in insects to improve detection methods for arbovirus infections in mosquitos. Recent data from the Andino lab and others, show the formation of stable viral DNA (vDNA) from RNA virus genomes following viral infection in insects. Though the mechanism responsible for its formation remain unclear, vDNA is essential for the RNA interference- mediated antiviral immune response. We hypothesis that specific cells known as haemocytes preferentially produce vDNA. Using a highly collaborative approach combining experimental dengue virus infection in Ae. aegypti mosquitoes and deep sequencing, we aim to identify where in the infected mosquito tissues vDNA is formed, when vDNA is formed and what molecular species predominate. Crucially, our findings will be instrumental in developing improved detection methods for arbovirus infections in mosquito populations.

Raul Andino-Pavlovsky, Microbiology and Immunology, UC San Francisco
Humberto Lanz Mendoza, Centro de Investigación sobre Enfermedades Infecciosas, INSP

From the sea surface to deep ocean sediments, marine microbial communities play a central role in regulating Earth’s climate and the ocean’s carbon cycle. This complex system involves multiple organisms and metabolic processes that are directly and indirectly linked, but which are rarely studied comprehensively. To fill this gap, we will examine the metagenomics and microbial ecology of the carbon cycle in a critical region of the ocean that connects Mexico and California. We will capitalize on a funded oceanographic research cruise to examine microbial community dynamics from the sea surface to sediments, and along strong natural gradients of productivity and oxygen depletion. Guided by these and other data, we will use comparative metagenomics to analyze the functional repertoire of microbial communities inhabiting key depth regions. These analyses will be conducted at multiple sites along the cruise transect, allowing us to test multiple hypotheses. We expect distinct community variations with depth, but expect high functional similarity between water and sediment in some cases; we further expect significant differences in composition, diversity, and function along the oceanographic gradients. Our study is designed to produce multiple publications, as well as a rich dataset that will be leveraged for future research proposals.

J. Michael Beman, Life and Environmental Science, UC Merced
José Quinatzin García Maldonado, Recursos del Mar, CINVESTAV-IPN, Mérida

Nitrogen (N) is an essential nutrient for plants and the requirement for N is largely met by the use of inorganic fertilizers. These fertilizers are produced by energy-intensive processes that are estimated to utilize 1 to 2% of the total global energy supply, produce an equivalent share of global greenhouse gas emissions and cost $100B annually. Biological nitrogen fixation is a promising and sustainable alternative to the use of nitrogen fertilizers globally. Nitrogen-fixing microbial associations are well characterized in legumes but are largely absent from cereals, including maize. We previously studied an indigenous landrace of maize grown in N depleted soils in the Sierra Juarez region of Oaxaca, Mexico. This landrace is characterized by extensive development of aerial roots that secrete a carbohydrate-rich mucilage which harbors a N2 fixing microbial community. Field experiments in Sierra Juarez using 15N natural abundance or 15N-enrichment assessments over five years indicated that atmospheric nitrogen fixation contributed 30-82% of the nitrogen nutrition of Sierra Juarez maize landrace. Here we propose to test whether this activity of atmospheric N2 fixation is expressed in fields outside of Sierra Juarez and whether the trait or the associated microbial community can be transferred to other varieties of maize.

Alan Bennett, Plant Sciences, UC Davis
Javier López-Baltazar, Ingenierías, Instituto Tecnológico del Valle de Oaxaca

Small coastal inlets, connecting estuaries with the ocean, abound in many parts of the world. They characterize by variations in the position of the mouth (migration) and by the closure during specific seasons. These small inlets receive much less attention than larger counterparts; however, they are related to important ecosystems. Climate change will generate devastating effects on small inlets in particular. In order to predict the potential effects of climate change on small coastal inlets and to minimize its consequences, we need to understand the current mechanisms associated with flow and water quality in these important systems. The proposed work promotes a long-term partnership between the UC Davis and the Institute of Oceanographic Research of the University of Baja California, to investigate the small inlets in both areas of California. Through this collaboration, we endeavor to generate the basic and applied knowledge to understand these systems in detail. In particular, we will develop a database of small inlets around the world; we will organize visits of the PIs and students to the partnering institutions; we will develop short and long graduate courses and outreach; and we will contact officers in a town to promote science-based decision-making.

Fabian Bombardelli, Civil and Environmental Engineering, UC Davis
Amaia Ruíz de Alegría-Arzaburu, Instituto de Investigaciones Oceanológicas, UABC

The use of naturally occurring microorganisms that can efficiently control pathogens represents a promising approach for the control of plant diseases. Although several microorganisms with these characteristics have been isolated invitro, the majority fail when tested in the field. In nature, there are soils in which microorganisms protect plants against infections by suppressing pathogens. This occurs due to the concerted activities of organisms with different mechanisms of disease suppression. With the help of regional producers, we will identify suppressive soils associated to the farming industry in the municipality of Ensenada and characterize the microbial communities that colonize the rhizosphere and roots of plants growing in them using high-throughput sequencing of the rRNA internal transcribed spacer region. This will allow us to analyze the structure and diversity of these communities in the context of soil properties, the pathogen, and the levels of suppression. Finally, we will isolate and characterize bacterial strains identified as critical for the suppressing properties of soil. Our work will not only help in understanding the ecological mechanisms interacting in suppressive soils but will aid in the development of biological control tools, tailored to the specific necessities of producers and the environmental characteristics of the region.

Results: The role of the soil microbiome in ecosystem functioning and in relation to plant health and productivity has been widely established in several studies around the world. The field is pregressively advancing towards delucidating how we can manipulate and manage the soil microbiome to increase soil fertility, improve crop production and expand our understanding os how terrestrial ecosystems will respond to climate change. The high diversity and variability of soil microbial communities makes it impossible to extrapolate results from one region to another, highlighting the importance of regional soil surveys, for the development of regional tools.

Baja California is a highly agricultural state, with increasing disease resitstance problems across several crops and diseases. The information concerning soil agricultural miocrobiomes for the state was non exixtent before this study. In the course of a year we visited and sampled soil from 15 farms in two important agricultural valleys in the municipality of Ensenada: Maneadero and Valle de Guadalupe. The crops for these farms were grapes, Raspberries, tomatoes and culinary herbs woth varying degrees of disease incidence and productivity. A physical & chemical profile was obtained for each samples soil, as well as Illumina NGS of bacterial and fungal communities. This survey, even though not thorough, provided leads microbial taxa that may have important functions towards mantaining productivity and health of these crops. The project provided a baseline of information that has made it clear that each crop and agricultural region must be studied in a deeper way, increasing the sampling depth to account for high soil microbial variability, in order to make any robust affirmations on the data. The project allowed for the beggining of research relationships with several new farms, whose soils will be sampled again for further surveys, microorganism isolations and in vivo greenhouse trials.

James Borneman, Microbiology and Plant Pathology, UC Riverside
Edgardo Alfredo Sepúlveda Sánchez Hidalgo, Microbiología, CICESE

This collaborative proposal between the UC Riverside and the ENES Morelia, UNAM aims to develop an interdisciplinary, intercultural, and critical investigation on the relationships between sound, space and affect in immersive sound environments. Empirical research with listening subjects will be accomplished in immersive sound spaces located at two different labs in the US and Mexico – the UC Riverside facility EARS (Experimental Acoustics Research Studio) and the ENES, UNAM facility. The psychoacoustic research focuses on experiences related to sound and music ranging from consciousness, perception, thought, memory, imagination, emotion, affect, and performance, to the level of meaningful social and cultural interactions. The investigation seeks to answer questions such as, how does sound relate to affect? What kind of emotions does sound trigger in us? How an immersive space shapes sound consciousness and affect? By comparing empirical data with subjects accomplished in the two labs we also expect to gain insight not only into the different relationships between sound, space and affect but also in the constitute role of culture in sound and music consciousness.

Paulo C. Chagas, Music, UC Riverside
Jorge Rodrigo Sigal Sefchovich, Música y Tecnología Artística/CMMAS, Escuela Nacional de Estudios Superiores, UNAM, Campus Morelia

Plants constantly adjust to their prevailing environment by sensing and integrating various environmental cues into appropriate transduction pathways required for cellular homeostasis and hence optimal adaptive responses. The chloroplast, as the cell’s metabolic hub, is the site of photosynthesis and de nova biosynthesis of a wide range of essential metabolites. To safeguard these central processes against frequent and prevailing challenges, the chloroplast thus functions not only as a central metabolic hub but also as an environmental sensor that perceives stress and produces retrograde (plastid-to-nucleus) signals to coordinate nuclear-encoded adaptive responses. The plastidial methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway is not only key in production of isoprenoids’ essential metabolites, but its intermediate methyl-erythritol- cyclodiphosphate (MEcPP) also functions as a stress-specific retrograde signal. The MEP pathway’s presence in most eubacteria and in apicomplexa, and its absence in animals, has led to efforts deemed at exploiting it for development of novel medicinal and agrochemical agents. However, despite the key function of this metabolic and stress sensing pathway, its regulation has remained an enigma. We propose to address this deficiency by examining the transcriptional and posttranslational dynamics of the MEP pathway regulation.

Katayoon Dehesh, Institute for Integrative Genome Biology, UC Riverside
Patricia León Mejía, Biología Molecular de Plantas,
Instituto de Biotecnología, UNAM

Biological processes such as development or stress response trigger a series of molecular events that involve a large number of genes. These are organized into complex regulatory networks and are usually regulated by more than one stimulus. In this project we propose to begin to identify the transcriptional regulatory network of the crosstalk between the plant hormones abscisic acid (ABA, a hormone essential for seed development, dormancy and germination, and also stress responses) and ethylene (the main hormone responsible for the maturation of climacteric fruits) during tomato fruit maturation. There is evidence of the participation of ABA during fruit ripening and its possible regulation of ethylene biosynthesis in fruits. However, little is known about the molecular and transcriptional regulatory networks involved in this crosstalk. We will use a combination of high-throughput data analysis and experimental methods in order to identify the molecular mechanisms of ABA-ethylene crosstalk on fruit ripening.

Ruth Finkelstein, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, UC Santa Barbara
Fabioloa Jaimes Miranda, Biología Molecular, Instituto Potosino de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica, A.C.

Conservation planning for migratory bats requires a better understanding of how bats use the landscape during foraging bouts and what plant resources bats depend on when their primary food is out of season. Our project answers questions about how spatial and seasonal variation in plant resource availability influences the foraging habits and movements of a migratory nectar-feeding bat in Mexico. By forming a new collaboration between UC Santa Cruz and the Instituto Politécnico Nacional (IPN)-CIIDIR Unidad Durango, this project unites two women scientists working on bat ecology and conservation who have independently established complementary long-term research sites in different locations within the same ecological system. This project leverages those independent research advances to enable new potential to address questions on the impacts of land use and climate change on a pollinating bat that migrates between Mexico and the US. We will use state-of-the-art miniature GPS tracking devices coupled with drone technology to quantify foraging movements and test hypotheses about how bats use the landscape in relation to seasonal resource availability. We expect to reveal new insights on how small animals adjust their behavior to deal with local environmental changes and, more generally, how they might deal with global changes.

Winifred Frick, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz
Verónica Zamora Gutiérrez, Academia de Ecología y Sistemática, Centro Interdisciplinario de Investigación para el Desarrollo Integral Regional-IPN, Unidad Durango

Tepary beans (Phaseolus acutifolius) were domesticated in the desert South-West of the US and Sonora, Mexico and have the global reputation for being the crop that survives on the least rainfall. However, tepary bean landraces have also been adapted to humid environments, such as the Yucatán peninsula and Central America. This degree of local adaptation, and available UC Davis breeding populations, offers an opportunity to test hypotheses concerning how leaf traits (narrowness) would lead to drought tolerance in arid environments but may have water use efficiency tradeoffs in humid environments. Specifically, narrow leaves are well coupled with the atmosphere, this promotes water use, but also favorably keeps the leaves near air temperature under hot drought conditions, avoiding heat damage. Some ancestral tepary beans, have narrow leaves, and these have been introgressed into breeding populations, through crossing and phenotypic selection. This work would compare the drought responses of bean populations in two environments (UC Davis and Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán). The results would indicate what leaf width (narrow or wide) is needed to optimize bean response to drought and minimize water use under normal conditions, and establish the genetic control of this leaf character.

Matthew Gilbert, Plant Sciences, UC Davis
José C. Cervera Herrera, Ecología Tropical, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán

Between 2005 and 2015, an estimated 500,000 U.S.-born children migrated from the United States to Mexico, an unprecedented North-South migration of children that mirrors the recent large-scale return of adult migrants to Mexico. Although U.S.-citizen children have the right to migrate freely to the United States and eventually sponsor their parents for legal migration to the United States, there is little to no existing empirical research on the characteristics, determinants of migration, or future plans of U.S. citizen children in Mexico. We are proposing to investigate the patterns, determinants, and future potentialities of the recent, large-scale migration of children between Mexico and the United States with a mixed-methods research design. The project will build a new collaborative initiative between El Colegio de México, the University of California at Davis, and the University of Alberta, train a new generation of scholars of international migration in North America, and expand our understanding of international migration in the 21st century and the particular role of children within it.

Erin Hamilton, Sociology, UC Davis
Silvia E. Giorguli-Saucedo, Centro de Estudios Demograficos, Urbanos, y Ambientales, El Colegio de México

Humanizando la Deportación is a community based participatory digital media project that puts a human face on the deportation crisis through the production of digital stories created by those wishing to recount their experiences with deportation. Phase I of the project, launched through a collaboration between UC Davis and Colegio de la Frontera Norte in 2017, has yielded some 45 digital stories, all published on our bilingual public website.This is the first and only qualitative public archive that records the human consequences of deportation. It has quickly gained significant attention throughout Mexico and the US; colleagues have both been impressed and moved by its content, and eager to see it transformed into a more versatile resource. Phase II extends the project from its initial site of Tijuana to three additional major Mexican sites of repatriation (Mexico City/State, Guadalajara, Ciudad Juárez) with the aim to expand the profile of this database from regional to national through new collaborations with colleagues from Tecnológico de Monterrey, Universidad de Guadalajara, and Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua. This fellowship would support these new collaborations between our UC Davis team and Mexican colleagues, as well as this expansion to new research sites.

Robert M. Irwin, Spanish and Portuguese, UC Davis
Maricruz Castro Ricalde, Escuela de Humanidades y Educación, ITESM
Luis Rodolfo Morán Quiroz, Sociología, Universidad de Guadalajara
Abraham Paniagua, Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua

Discovering a bioactive natural product is expensive and time consuming. Pharmaceutical industries therefore seek to incorporate efficient and cost-effective experimental protocols into their early-stage drug discovery pipelines. Current pipelines implement the traditional “culture-extract-screen” approach which involves large-scale and costly experimentations, often performed by automated robots. This collaborative project aims to establish an innovative method that may accelerate early-stage drug discovery pipelines by efficiently expanding the known chemical scaffolds. Using as proof-of-concept the β-lactams scaffold we aim to incorporate recent synthetic biology advances, with phylogenomic analysis and in vivo screening, to develop a combinatorial chemistry by genetics method to explore chemical diversity around β-lactams chemical scaffolds in short time at a low cost. The scientific team at UC Berkeley, will generate the phylogenomic platform that will be used to generate synthetic biology constructs and further develop the biosynthetic bases of the β-lactam chemical diversity. On the other hand, the scientific team at Tec de Monterrey will establish a screening methodology to assess positive clones, and together, will establish all analytical chemistry protocols. We believe this approach could positively impact the biodiscovery pipeline for the majority of pharmacologically relevant natural product classes, effectively discovering novel drugs, cheaper and faster.

Results: al products-based drug discovery is expensive and time consuming, as they involve costly large-scale experiments with a low success rate. We are developing a method to accelerate early stages of drug discovery pipelines by diversifying the chemical structure of known bioactive natural products. As a proof of concept, we focused on developing synthetic biology constructs to diversify aminoglycosides, widely used antibiotics and clavulanic acids, beta-lactam inhibitors, which help overcome pathogen’s resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics. As part of the project, we used phylogenomics to define the evolutionary relationships between gene families and chemical diversity in our selected model. Our phylogenomic results suggest that large chemical diversity, including new-to-nature molecules is directed by surprisingly small number of gene families, allowing for the design of semi-rational combinatorial genetic libraries for the heterologous production of several biosynthetically generated congeners, and screen them for improved properties in comparison with known molecules. In addition, we designed an artificial sensor for detection of environmental and heterologous strains producing aminoglycosides that can be coupled to any bioprospection platform. Our UC-MexUS collaborative grant allowed us to achieve both academic and collaborative milestones. First, we succesfully used phylogenomics and synthetic biology approaches in order to design and construct a a platform for biodiscovery of clavulanic acid and aminoglycoside congeners. Most importantly, we fostered collaborative research between UC Berkeley and Tecnologico de Monterrey that has already translated into co- supervision of postgraduate students, academic exchanges and secured funds for 65K USD to follow up on the project.

Jay Keasling, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Bioengineering, UC Berkeley Cuauhtémoc Licona-Cassani, Centro de Biotecnologia FEMSA, ITESM

Enteric production of methane (CH4) by livestock is considered a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the agricultural sector. Globally, ruminant livestock produce (CH4) by food fermentation in their anoxic rumens with a total estimate of between 87 and 97 Tg (CH4) yr-1, accounting for ~33% of anthropogenic emissions of CH4. Major regional contributions of this GHG come to from India, China, Brazil and the US. The large number of domestic ruminants, particularly beef cattle and dairy cattle—combined with the high level of CH4 emissions per head and the high global warming potential of methane—make enteric fermentation a significant contributor to domestic GHG from agriculture. Thus, firm actions must be taken from a scientific perspective to curtail CH4 emissions from this expanding industry. Cattle population in the US is 98 million heads, whereas in Mexico is 33 million heads, so the development of sustainable and environmentally friendly production systems is a priority. The first step towards achieving this goal is to have appropriate inventories of CH4 emissions. The US has achieved a large progress in this area, whereas Mexico is just starting because there is not a reliable inventory for methane emissions from enteric fermentation, so it is expected that the Mexican counterpart will benefit largely from the experience of the research group. The objective of the present project is to develop the enteric methane emissions inventory for the cattle industry in Mexico using in vivo and in silico methodologies.

Ermias Kebreab, Animal Science, UC Davis
Octavio Alonso Castelán Ortega, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, UNAM

Lake Chapala is the largest and one of the most polluted watersheds in Mexico. The low water quality index and presence of hazardous chemicals in the lake pose a significant threat to the ecosystem and the health of the people living in the surrounding communities. Of the many pollutants present in Lake Chapala, pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are of special concern since they are not completely eliminated through conventional water treatment. Here, we propose the use of magnetic permanently confined micelle arrays (Mag-PCMAs), a novel, reusable and low-cost adsorbent (~$4/kg) that can efficiently remove a wide variety of chemicals from aqueous solutions. The removal efficiency of PPCPs by Mag- PCMAs from water samples of Lake Chapala will be determined and we will design and validate a filter at laboratory scale where Mag-PCMAs will be homogeneously distributed in an alginate-based hydrogel, a soft material that would facilitate the continuous water treatment. This collaboration between the UC Santa Barbara and CIATEJ Guadalajara will bring together experts in nanotechnology and environmental technology for the development of innovative and practical solutions for one of the most urgent societal needs: access to clean water.

Arturo Keller, School of Environmental Science and Management, UC Santa Barbara
Cristina del Carmen Torres-Duarte, Tecnología Ambiental, Centro de Investigación y Asistencia en Tecnología y Diseño del Estado de Jalisco

The increasing consumption of personal electronics and electrical vehicle push the development of high-efficient battery systems. In this regard, lithium-sulfur batteries have gained interest to produce sustainable and low-cost energy sources. Nanostructured materials have been the focus due to their high surface area volume ratio, improving their physic-chemical properties when incorporated into polymeric matrices. Carbon-based nanomaterials show unique optical, mechanical and high electrical conductivity due to their sp2 hybridation and surface area, and can be considered as promising material for energy storage. On the other hand, polymer matrices are based in multi-ring aromatic compounds without ether linkages in the blackbone, due to the polyhydroxialquilation reaction between a carbonyl compound and aromatic ones in a super acid media. These polymers could be obtained with different architectures, linear hyperbranched and ladders, presenting high thermal and chemical stability as a microporous membrane with potential permeability properties. Additionally, synthesized polymers can be nanostructured with carbon- based nanomaterials, adding high thermo-chemical and conductivity characteristics to continue phase, in order to produce semi conductive nanomaterials. The present propose the in situ synthesis of multi-ring aromatic compounds with carbon-based nanostructures in super acid media and their evaluation as electrodes in super capacitors devices.

Results: CIDETEQ formed a group of 3 researchers and 5 students to collaborate with the polymer synthesis, nanoparticles synthesis and nanocomposites preparation. We report the synthesis of 5 new polymer structures with Nitrogen and Sulfur species, and the preparation of these materials in films and nanofibers by electrospinning method. Additionally, CIDETEQ partners performed a visit to UCSC during April 9-14 of 2019, where Liliana España, Lilian Olvera and Antonio Ávila present a seminary related with the CIDETEQ capacities in polymer materials. In this regard, we had diverse meetings with Yat Li and co-workers to establish the features of polymer electrodes synthesized by CIDETEQ to obtain the appropriate electrochemical properties as porous carbon scaffold for Li-S batteries. CIDETEQ send to UCSC 8 samples for their respective carbonization and electrochemical characterization. Finally, as a result of CIDETEQ development, we have several promising candidates for further investigation.

Yat Li, Chemistry and Biochemistry, UC Santa Cruz
Beatriz Liliana España Sánchez, Lilian Iraís Olvera Garza, and José Antonio Avila Niño, Subdirección de Procesos Industriales y Recubrimientos, Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo Tecnológico en Electroquímica, S.C.

The importance of the labor force in the agricultural sector in California cannot be overstated: the state accounts for 16% of U.S. crop production, and employs over 450,000 agricultural workers, two-thirds of which are of Latino ethnicity. Extreme heat conditions significantly affect the manual labor capacity of workers and degrades overall health. Thus, California faces increasingly serious trade-offs between productivity and labor health in the face of climate change. Extreme heat is expected to worsen the negative impacts to the environment and agricultural economy; thus, building adaptive capacity is imperative for health and local resilience, particularly in border regions. Each day, thousands of dayworkers cross the Mexicali- Calexico border and join thousands of other migrant workers often in dangerously hot conditions. With increasing food requirements and population in the region, there is a need to protect migrant worker health and the economy. To do so, we must examine health transitions through the lens of migrants in both sending and receiving communities. Accordingly, we seek to assess the impact of heat on worker productivity and health, as well as the socio-cultural influences that may affect migrant workers’ behavior in the Calexico-Mexicali border region, and therefore their risk of suffering heat-related illness.

David López-Carr, Geography, UC Santa Barbara
Armando Sánchez Vargas, Instituto de Investigación Económica, UNAM

Cataract disease is the leading cause of blindness in the world, affecting many patients in the US and Mexico, and causing a significant annual economic burden for both countries. Cataract results from aggregation of eye lens proteins, called crystallins, causing light scattering and opacification of the lens. The only available treatment is surgical removal of the lens, which is invasive and expensive. The objective of this project is to understand the molecular basis of cataract, which will help guide the search for novel therapeutics. In particular, we focus on the effect of biologically important divalent metal ions on the aggregation of γ-crystallins, structural proteins of the human eye lens. We plan to use a variety of spectroscopic and biophysical techniques to determine the role of these metal ions in the mechanism of γ-crystallin aggregation. The project exploits the complementary expertise of the two research groups on: nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) of crystallins by R. Martin, and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) of metalloproteins by L. Quintanar. The project plan includes exchange visits by students from both groups to learn new methodology and discuss results. This study will provide insights into metal-γ-crystallins interactions that are important in cataract formation.

 

Results: Cataract disease is the leading cause of blindness in the world, affecting many patients in the US and Mexico, and causing a significant annual economic burden for both countries. Cataract results from aggregation of eye lens proteins, called crystallins, causing light scattering and opacification of the lens. The only available treatment is surgical removal of the lens, which is invasive and expensive. The objective of this project was to understand the molecular basis of cataract, which will help guide the search for novel therapeutics. In particular, we focused on the effect of biologically important divalent metal ions on the aggregation of γ-crystallins, structural proteins of the human eye lens. In particular, we have used a variety of spectroscopic and biophysical techniques to determine the role of cysteine residues in the mechanism of copper- induced γS-crystallin aggregation. R. Martin’s group (UC Irvine) developed a variant of γS- crystallin where all solvent-exposed cysteine residues were mutated. The role of these residues in the reduction of Cu(II) to Cu(I) was evaluated by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) at UC Irvine, by electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) at L. Quintanar’s lab (Cinvestav), and by X-ray absorption spectroscopy at Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL). Two graduate students and two postdocs participated in this project, did exchange visits between the two labs, and got the experience to run their samples during beamtime at SSRL. These exchanges provided an opportunity for students to learn about other biophysical techniques. Finally, this study provides further insights into metal-γ-crystallins interactions that are important in cataract formation.

Rachel W. Martin, Chemistry, UC Irvine
Vera Liliana Quintanar, Química, CINVESTAV-IPN

This project will initiate a new collaboration to engineer the next generation of bio- inspired underwater robots based on the propulsion mechanism of so-called metachronal swimmers. These tiny marine zooplankton naturally aggregate and migrate vast distances below the sea surface as a defense against predators; their multi-scale hydrodynamic interactions set the surrounding fluid into motion transporting nutrients and mixing properties in a stratified environment. Our far-reaching goal is to understand how the propulsion mechanism of these marine creatures can be exploited to maximize fluid transport and mixing of the ambient fluid. Advances in our experimental and modeling capabilities to analyze organism-fluid interactions and attribute salient traits to the underlying kinematics will allow us to understand the design concepts behind propulsion mechanisms found in nature, look for alternative solutions, and apply them to improve engineering systems. Through this collaborative approach that complements quantitative dynamic measurements with an in-depth kinematic analysis, we will address one main fundamental scientific question: What kinematic parameters primarily affect hydrodynamic efficiency during metachronal propulsion? The proposed research will broaden the spectrum of existing underwater vehicles for applications requiring efficient transport and mixing.

Monica Martinez, Mechanical and Chemical & Environmental Engineering, UC Riverside Francisco Cuenca Jiménez, División de Ingeniería Mecánica e Industrial, UNAM

This project will investigate the contribution of microbial diversity on specific ecosystem processes that may enhance global ecological models and biodiversity management, using biological soil crusts (BSC) of arid ecosystems as a model system. The significance of this research is bolstered both by the relative simple composition of BSC microbial communities, which facilitates its study, and by the impact that ecological and mechanistic knowledge of their functioning can have in future climate scenarios including the desertification of land ecosystems. This project will take advantage of a field experiment (reciprocal transplant) that will allow statistical distinction of the relative contribution of community composition and environmental conditions on the functional response of communities to environmental changes. We will work with BSC samples from two arid ecosystems in Mexico (with contrasting rainfall regimes) and the functional process of interest will focus on nitrogen fixation. The experiment was conducted in 2013, when basic physicochemical characterizations of the soils and measures of nitrogen fixation potential of all samples were determined. The funds for this proposal will be used for high throughput sequencing to catalog bacterial and fungal composition of all samples. Microbial diversity, soil profiles, and nitrogen fixation potential, will be analyzed by means of multivariate statistics to identify possible causative relation. This project will be the basis of future collaborative projects regarding the functional significance of microbial diversity. We plan to expand these experiments to a wider continental scale and to other steps of the nitrogen cycle and of other biogeochemical cycles (e.g., carbon, phosphorous, and sulfur.

Jennifer B. H. Martiny, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Irvine Ana Elena Escalante Hernández, Instituto de Ecología, UNAM

We request funds to establish a new collaborative research partnership in the area of volcano geophysics (volcano seismology and acoustics).This collaboration brings together volcano geophysicists from the US and Mexico to refine our understanding of how volcanoes work and potentially improve monitoring methods for active volcanoes in both countries. Seismology and acoustics are complementary methods for quantifying volcanic eruption processes. Seismic data form the backbone of most volcano monitoring systems. Seismic signals at erupting volcanoes capture subsurface magma transport and degassing associated with explosive eruptions. Infrasound (acoustic waves with frequencies below 20 Hz) is a newer technology; infrasound data record subaerial degassing and allow physical quantification of explosive eruption mechanisms. Popocatépetl is the most active volcano in Mexico and a prodigious source of explosive activity, making it an ideal target to combine seismic and infrasound investigations. We have collected the first continuous infrasound and seismic data ever at Popocatépetl. We request funds to collaboratively analyze these unique data and refine experimental design for expanded future field deployments.

Robin Matoza, Earth Science, UC Santa Barbara
Maria Alejandra Arciniega Ceballos, Vulcanología, Instituto de Geofísica, UNAM