Awards of UC Berkeley-Chile Seed Funds

Logo of Chile's CONICYT.The Center for Latin American Studies would like to congratulate the recipients of the 2013-16 UC Berkeley–Chile Seed Grants funded by Chile’s National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT). Binational teams received grants of up to $30,000 to conduct collaborative research in both Chile and California.

Projects funded from 2013-16:

Pubertal Events, Substance Use and Sexual Risk Behaviors in Latinos from Salinas, California and Santiago, Chile
Julianna Deardorff, UC Berkeley
Camila Corvalán, Universidad de Chile
Article from the Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies:
"PUBLIC HEALTH: Growing Up Too Fast"

A New Connection: Potential Cancer Treatment Agents
Isao Kubo, UC Berkeley
Carlos L. Céspedes, Universidad del Bío-Bío

A Unique Opportunity to Study How Geysers Work: El Tatio Geyser Field, Chile
Michael Manga, UC Berkeley
Martin Reich, Universidad de Chile

Development of Advanced Remote Sensing Methods for Mapping and Managing Plant Species Diversity in Mediterranean Forests of Chile
Greg Biging, UC Berkeley
Jaime Hernández, Universidad de Chile

Color Centers in Diamond for Sensing Applications
Dmitry Budker, UC Berkeley
Jerónimo Maze, Pontificia Universidad Católica

Geophysical Exploration of Hotspot-Generated Ridges of South America
Mark Richards, UC Berkeley
Eduardo Contreras Reyes, Universidad de Chile

Sustainable and Biodiversity Friendly Vineyard Landscapes: A Collective Analysis of Two Agroecosystems
Adina Merenlender, UC Berkeley
Olga Barbosa, Universidad Austral de Chile
Article from the Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies:
"CHILE & CALIFORNIA: The Wine is the Land"

Long-term Evolution of Alpine Glaciation and Topography of the Patagonian Andes
David L. Shuster, UC Berkeley
Reynaldo Charrier, Universidad de Chile

Wave and Tidal Energy Development in Chile
Ronald W. Yeung, UC Berkeley
Marcos Salas, Universidad Austral de Chile

Comparative Evolutionary Studies of New World Mediterranean-Type Flora
Bruce Baldwin, UC Berkeley
Rosa Scherson, Universidad de Chile

Mechanisms of Active Protein Translocation Through Membranes and Protein Folding at the Single Molecule Level
Carlos Bustamante, UC Berkeley
Christian Wilson, Universidad de Chile


Pubertal Events, Substance Use and Sexual Risk Behaviors in Latinos from Salinas, California and Santiago, Chile
Julianna Deardorff, UC Berkeley
Camila Corvalán, Universidad de Chile

Sexually transmitted infections, adolescent pregnancy, and substance use are common among Latino youth in the U.S. and among Chilean adolescents, particularly those from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. Puberty represents an important developmental window for understanding the emergence of risk behaviors. Non-Hispanic girls who mature early are at risk for substance use and risky sexual behaviors; early pubertal timing is related to substance use among non-Hispanic boys as well. However, these associations are vastly understudied in Latino populations. This area of research is timely given worldwide evidence of a clear secular trend toward earlier onset of puberty. Here, we propose to use a wealth of data shared by two longitudinal studies of pubertal girls and boys of Latino origin in the U.S. [CHAMACOS (N=624 11-13.5 y old, low SES youth in Salinas, California] and in Chile [GOCS (n-1100 10.5 y old, low-middle SES youth in Santiago)] to analyze how pubertal events progress in Latino populations. We also propose to examine potential differences between Latino communities in the U.S. and in Chile. We expect that these preliminary analyses, together with data on sexual risk-taking behaviors and substance use gathered in CHAMACOS, will inform the writing of a collaborative grant. Such a collaborative research project would markedly advance the understanding of how pubertal events relate to sexual risk and substance abuse among Latino adolescents from different countries of origin, using appropriate instruments for data comparison and considering potential psychosocial mechanisms or pathways linking these variables.

A New Connection: Potential Cancer Treatment Agents
Isao Kubo, UC Berkeley
Carlos L. Céspedes, Universidad del Bío-Bío

Annually the World health Organization (WHO) estimates that 66,000 people die each year from skin cancer, approximately 80% are from melanoma. The ability to control the production of melanin would offer potential melanoma treatments. Tyrosinase (ED 1.14, 18.1), is a key enzyme in the melanin formation pathway and therefore tyrosinase inhibitors are of interest as a potential treatment for melanoma. Tyrosinase inhibitors can be found in natural sources such as plants, particularly secondary metabolites. Flowering plants that are endemic to Chile will be the focus of this research. Some of these native plants have long been a source of medicine for local and indigenous peoples. Also, indigenous food sources may have additional secondary health benefits that have not yet been identified. Some of these plant species could be potential cancer-fighting agents, but research confirming these properties is lacking. The first step of our work will be to collect and identify these plants. Then, using a standard set of techniques, we will extract and identify the metabolites. Lastly, we will test these metabolites for efficacy against the targeted enzyme, tyrosinase. If successful candidates are found, further testing of cancerous cells will be performed. By following this process, we hope to identify natural plant metabolites which can be used for treating melanoma skin cancer.

A Unique Opportunity to Study How Geysers Work: El Tatio Geyser Field, Chile
Michael Manga, UC Berkeley
Martin Reich, Universidad de Chile

Geysers are rare features that episodically erupt water, steam, and other gases. Despite > 100 years of being monitored, we still have only a rudimentary understanding of how and why they erupt. At El Tatio Geyser Field (Northern Chile) we have a unique opportunity to make major advances in understanding the physics of natural geysers because 1) we have an opportunity to deploy scientific instrumentation within the geysers (not possible elsewhere), and 2) the large number of geysers allows us to understand the origins of diversity of eruption style. A first and successful academic collaboration, led by UC Berkeley and the Andean Geothermal Center of Excellence (CEGA), was developed in Chile in 2012. Field work, summer interships, scientific presentations, and papers have resulted from this initial collaboration. The present proposal aims to reinforce these connections and generate a basis for a long-term cooperation in the study of geothermal systems at El Tatio. Our project includes both field-based studies and exchange-visits between geoscientists from the University of Chile and the University of California. During the visit of faculty and students from UC Berkeley to Chile, seminars will be arranged in Santiago and San Pedro de Atacama. A team composed of faculty and students from both institutions will visit the field area and local communities. The field expedition objectives include characterizing the geology associated with geysers, collecting measurements, and identifying targets for future studies. 

Development of Advanced Remote Sensing Methods for Mapping and Managing Plant Species Diversity in Mediterranean Forests of Chile
Greg Biging, UC Berkeley
Jaime Hernández, Universidad de Chile

The decline of biodiversity is an issue of global concern. There are about 4 million hectares of oak woodlands in California. Oak woodlands have some of the highest levels of biodiversity of terrestrial ecosystems in California. For example, there are approximately 1,100 native vascular plant species in this important ecosystem. Similarly, the Mediterranean forests of central Chile have been identified as a biodiversity “hotspot.” Using field measurement alone to assess biodiversity does not provide the synoptic view needed to manage and protect biodiversity at the landscape, regional, and national levels. Utilizing remotely sensed data in combination with select field measurements may provide a path forward. However, this field is relatively new, and the best methodologies and satellite sensors needed for this task have still not been resolved. We have a tremendous opportunity to push this science forward using field and remotely sensed data from two important Mediterranean areas (central Chile and central California) for comparative studies that will aid in discovering the most appropriate technologies for this task. Our team is well suited for this undertaking having the array of analytic and field skills needed to be successful. The Chile and Berkeley teams provide complementary capabilities that are together stronger than our individual teams. Our project will help train graduate students and young researchers in this emerging field. We envision that we will be able to seek additional funding through the NSF Research Coordination Network grant and through the Fondecyt Regular Program to continue this research, education, and training collaboration.

Color Centers in Diamond for Sensing Applications
Dmitry Budker, UC Berkeley
Jerónimo Maze, Pontificia Universidad Católica

Color centers in diamond are promising candidates for sensing applications due to the high level of control that is possible to achieve of their internal degrees of freedom and their interaction with the environment. These centers can be optically active and, in the case of the nitrogen-vacancy center, it is possible to measure the state of an electronic spin associated with the defect via a spin dependent fluorescence. As the dynamics of an electronic spin is affected by external magnetic fields, these defects can be used for magnetic field sensing. First proof of principles demonstrations showed that single NV centers are able to detect single electronic spins 10 nm with a combined sensitivity and spatial resolution without precedents. Since NV centers are able to detect magnetic fields at room temperature, several applications for magnetic sensing have been proposed for biological applications, novel materials such as thin magnetic films have been explored showing magnetic vortices, and the implementation of diamond-based sensors for miniaturized hard drives is underway. 

Geophysical Exploration of Hotspot-Generated Ridges of South America
Mark Richards, UC Berkeley
Eduardo Contreras Reyes, Universidad de Chile

The west coast of South America is a major plate boundary where the oceanic Nazca Plate dives ("subducts") beneath the South American Plate. This plate boundary generates magnitude 8-9 earthquakes on a regular basis, such as the great 2010 Maule earthquake in central Chile. The seismogenic segments along this subduction zone are influenced by topographic ridges on the oceanic plate that are caused by hotspot tracks (Contreras-Reyes and Carrizo, 2011), representing lines of volcanoes generated by partial melting due to hot plumes rising within the Earth's mantle. Examples include the Juan Fernandez hotspot chain ("Robinson Crusoe Island"), the Nazca Ridge (Easter Island hotspot), and the Carnegie Ridge (Galapagos hotspot). We recently published a paper together (Richards et al., 2013) outlining a theory for interpreting the crustal structure of such ridges, which is important to understanding how they affect seismic coupling along the plate boundary. We propose to study existing geophysical data (bathymetry, gravity, seismic reflection/refraction) from these ridges, with an initial focus on the Galapagos ridge. Our goal is to achieve a better understanding of the deep crustal structure and evolution of these features. We request funding for travel so the PI's and their graduate students can work together in Berkeley and Santiago, and also for fieldwork on the Galapagos Island. PI Contreres-Reyes (Universidad de Chile) is a marine geophysicist with extensive experience working with marine seismic data, and PI Richards (UC Berkeley) is a geophysical modeler working on mantle plumes and hotspot volcanism. 

Sustainable and Biodiversity Friendly Vineyard Landscapes: A Collective Analysis of Two Agroecosystems
Adina Merenlender, UC Berkeley
Olga Barbosa, Universidad Austral de Chile

Vinecology is a useful framework for integrating ecological and viticultural practices in New World Mediterranean landscapes and developing win-win solutions for wine production and nature conservation. Following this approach, we propose a collaborative effort among agricultural researchers, conservation ecologists, and wine grape growers in California and Chile to address the diversification of Chile’s vineyard landscape in an effort to maintain and restore its fragile Mediterranean ecosystems and promote the quality wines that will result. With a new focus on wine quality by the Chilean industry and the commitment of many of California’s coastal wine grape growers  to environmental stewardship we have a unique opportunity to work together to create vineyard landscapes that will satisfy both production and biodiversity conservation goals. This new approach to wine grape growing requires comparative research in landscape ecology and climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable viticulture — including economic-environmental trade-offs and how to increase adoption of environmentally friendly farming practices. In-person field visits and workshops are proposed in both countries. A new vinecology web site will be developed to distribute recent literature on vineyard management practices and associations with biodiversity conservation as well as provide a discussion forum. At the same time, a high profile webinar series will be launched to share current research in vinecology and provide a regular discussion forum among interested investigators. Finally, continued support for research and technological advances in this area will be pursued both from the public research sector as well as from the wine industry itself. 

Long-term Evolution of Alpine Glaciation and Topography of the Patagonian Andes
David L. Shuster, UC Berkeley
Reynaldo Charrier, Universidad de Chile

One of the grand challenges of the Earth sciences is to explain the formation of our planet’s major mountain ranges by the combined action of tectonic processes and surface erosion. An appreciation for the intricate and deep linkages between these two factors frames current research on this topic. For example, tectonic movements of crustal material produce uplifted topography that alters the efficacy of erosion by rivers and glaciers, partly by changing valley slopes and partly by changing the climate. Erosion, in turn, changes the tectonic movements by redistributing mass and consequently altering the driving forces. The whole topic holds broad interest not only for Earth scientists, but also for the broader public captivated by — and living amidst — spectacular mountain landscapes. From the Sierra Nevada of California to the great Andes of Chile and neighboring countries, mountain landscapes have shaped peoples’ understanding of their connection to the natural world and conditioned the settlement patterns and economic activity of societies from ancient times to the present. In this project, we propose research that will provide information about the extent and timing of erosion of the Chilean Andes mountain range, to illuminate patterns of glacial erosion that reveal information about underlying processes, and to connect results to the large-picture context of regional tectonics (the process of mountain building by subduction) and global climate change (on the timescale of 20-million years). 

Wave and Tidal Energy Development in Chile
Ronald W. Yeung, UC Berkeley
Marcos Salas, Universidad Austral de Chile

Chilean energy demand has been growing over the past few decades, and it is expected to remain so as the country develops. Traditional renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric power are either fully exploited or face fierce opposition from environmental groups. Presently, more than half the energy the country requires is produced by thermal plants burning imported and expensive oil, coal, or gas. The Chilean government is fully aware of this vulnerability and is making efforts to increase the contribution of Non-Conventional Renewable Energy sources (NCRE). Chilean Society as a whole is demanding more environmentally friendly means of generating energy, and consequently the government is taking steps to reach the so-called 20/25 goal, i.e., 20% of total energy produced by NCRE by the year 2025.

Chile is undoubtedly well situated to benefit from the energy from the sea; the country has more than 4,000 kilometers of Pacific coast, with waves arriving all year round with little seasonal variation. Wave energy density increases in southern shores, specifically around latitude 40, where the University Austral of Chile is located, making this university well positioned to take a leading part in this national effort. It is expected that UC Berkeley expertise in Oceanic Engineering and leadership in ocean renewable research will help put the research effort in fast track, so as to take advantage of future research grants to be specifically aimed at NCRE, in particular, the creation of a research center of excellence for marine renewable energy expected for 2014.

Comparative Evolutionary Studies of New World Mediterranean-Type Flora
Bruce Baldwin, UC Berkeley
Rosa Scherson, Universidad de Chile

Mediterranean-type ecosystems are important and particularly vulnerable, given the amount of biodiversity they host, their high levels of endemism, and their high anthropic impact. In this context, measures of their current biodiversity and predictions of future distribution patterns become very important. Even though these assessments have traditionally been based on taxon richness, it is currently accepted that adding information on evolutionary patterns provides more meaningful measures of biodiversity. In the last decade, the exponential growth of both electronic open-access resources for biodiversity assessment, together with the advance of molecular DNA techniques and their associated bioinformatics tools have provided unprecedented opportunities for collaborative large-scale work. Interdisciplinary studies have been developed for the evaluation of taxa and areas integrating ecological and spatial components. The idea for this collaborative project comes as a natural flow form compatible efforts between two research groups with interest in Mediterranean-type flora. The aim of this project is to develop a collaborative, multidisciplinary research group focused on evaluating and comparing patterns of floristic diversity in two vulnerable Mediterranean-type ecosystems. We will develop a strategy based on meetings in Berkeley and Chile, including a workshop on the use of electronic resources for the assessment of biodiversity potential to be held in Chile. These meetings will have as a final goal the development of combined research proposals for grant applications in both countries that will allow for the establishment and consolidation of a long-term research collaboration.

Mechanisms of Active Protein Translocation Through Membranes and Protein Folding at the Single Molecule Level
Carlos Bustamante, UC Berkeley
Christian Wilson, Universidad de Chile

We propose a research collaboration that studies biological systems at the single-molecule level, particularly the mechanisms of active protein translocation through membranes and protein folding. Mechanical processes are a key component of many biological events. The relevance of mechanical force at the single-molecule level is evident in such diverse phenomena in the cell as transportation by molecular motors, formation and liberation of vesicles, packing of DNA during viral replication, protein folding, and translocation of protein through channels, among others. Classical biochemical assays, or ensemble studies, conducted to study these processes are limited in two respects: 1) They do not permit the measurement of forces and torques generated in their course; 2) These methods often mask the heterogeneity inherent to populations of macromolecules, which are subject to random fluctuations when interacting with the thermal bath. Experiments on individual molecules have become powerful tools to study the dynamic behavior and functional mechanisms of biological macromolecules, and the translocation of protein across membranes has not been well studied at this level of understanding. This project seeks to create a collaborative network that allows its members to solve problems in the field of multidisciplinary study of protein translocation and folding at single-molecule level and long-term research creating new collaborations between the members of the network. This research has emergent applications in R&D and medical bioscience, resulting from interactions between groups that would otherwise lack opportunities to collaborate. Additional national and international funding will support ongoing infrastructure, operation, and collaboration between the two countries.