UC MEXUS Grants Help Merced Professors Collaborate with Mexican Colleagues

MERCED - The University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS) provides seed funding for developing research and teaching collaborations between institutions in Mexico and the United States. Two UC Merced faculty members have found an unexpected angle to bring these funds to contribute to their work: Mónica Medina and Rudy M. Ortiz have received MEXUS grants to help establish cooperation with Mexican research institutions in marine biology.

The collaborative grants will allow the researchers to plan for future projects and programs that will advance scientific knowledge about health and the environment and offer opportunities for UC Merced students to study marine biology in Mexico.

"We are very excited about the opportunities that the UC MEXUS program will provide for UC Merced students and faculty," said Dean Maria Pallavicini of the UC Merced School of Natural Sciences. "The successful applications of Professors Ortiz and Medina reflect their scholarship and vision to bring this to UC Merced."

Ortiz's grant will allow visits and meetings between UC Merced and the Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste (CIBNOR) in La Paz, Baja California del Sur. He plans to collaborate with faculty members there to study oxidative stress - a component of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure -- in marine animals. Better understanding of how oxidative stress works in different environments may someday lead to health advances for humans.

Ortiz and Medina will also use this grant money to work with their Mexican counterparts to explore the potential for team-taught field courses for UC Merced students at CIBNOR. "It will be a unique opportunity for students to have a four to six-week course in which they will actually spend a majority of the time in the water examining marine environments in all their splendor," said Ortiz. Part of Medina's grant will also be used to plan this course.

Medina's UC MEXUS grant will also help establish research collaborations with colleagues at the Universidad Nacional Autonóma de Mexico (UNAM) in Puerto Morelos, Yucatán and at the Universidad de Baja California Sur. These collaborations will allow a larger-scale genomic analysis of the health of sea coral and algae populations, Medina's area of specialty.

"The laboratory in Puerto Morelos is an ideal place into which I can expand my field research," Medina said. "And Cabo Pulmo, in the vicinity of La Paz, is one of the largest reefs in the Eastern Pacific."

The two UC Merced professors plan to visit their Mexican colleagues in January 2006 to make more concrete plans for these research and teaching projects, with reciprocal visits to Merced to follow.

UC MEXUS promotes education, research, public service, and other scholarly activities in Mexican studies, United States-Mexico relations, Latino studies and other critical related issues. The institute also promotes collaboration between Mexican and United States scientists in all disciplines. Within this broad definition, UC MEXUS seeks to identify, encourage, secure financial support for, and publicize programs which promise to contribute substantially to scholarship, to enhance University instruction—particularly in graduate and professional areas—to improve binational understanding, and to make positive contributions to society in both Mexico and the United States. The institute has been located at the UC Riverside campus since 1984.

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