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Four Texas A&M University students were recently chosen to participate in the Exchange Program for Visiting Student Researchers—a program designed for master’s and doctoral students who would like to complete a semester of research in Mexico. Maura Palacios Mejia, Melanie Colon, Amanda Davila-Flores, and Krystle Yakshe were all selected to participate in the newly-created exchange program between Texas A&M and El Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Technologia (CONACYT). The goal of the program is to promote, develop, and strengthen the relationship between Texas A&M and Mexico in scientific and technological research.

Maura Palacios Mejia, a doctoral student in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences will perform research on the conservation of freshwater systems in high biodiversity areas in southern Mexico and Central America. The results from this study will likely provide relevant information to Mexican governmental and non-governmental institutions aimed at protecting the natural resources. Dr. Rocio Rodiles-Hernandez from El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR), in the Division de Conservacion de la Biodiversidad, will act as host faculty member, and Dr. Mariana Mateos in Texas A&M’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences is the sponsoring faculty member.

Melanie Colon, a doctoral student in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences will study the endangered black-capped vireo during its post-breeding, migratory, and wintering periods. The long-term goal of this study is to gather the information necessary to identify habitats and prioritize locations for conservation and potential acquisition both in the U.S. and Mexico and to expand the knowledge of local property owners and managers in habitat conservation. Dr. Jose Gonzalez of the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon (UANL) will serve as the host faculty member and Dr. Michael Morrison in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at Texas A&M will sponsor Colon.

Amanda Davila-Flores, a master’s student in entomology at Texas A&M, will study the two genetically distinct corn leafhopper populations in Mexico and build from her recent research which examined the population genetic structure of corn leafhoppers in Mexico. She will be hosted by Dr. Ricardo Ramirez Romero at Centro Universitario de Ciencias Biologicas y Agropecuarias (CUCBA), Universidad de Guadalajara in Zapopan, Jalisco. Davila-Flores’ sponsoring faculty member is Dr. Julio Bernal, associate professor in entomology at Texas A&M.

Krystle Yakshe, a doctoral student in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, was awarded a grant to study at the Instituto de Biotecnologia in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. She will study valuable techniques that will be applied to studies of intracellular rotavirus trafficking. Her research works with silencing RNA to shut off specific cellular proteins, and Yakshe will also study viral protein transport in the absence of these cellular proteins. She will be hosted by Dr. Susana Lopez and sponsored by Dr. Judith Ball, associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at Texas A&M.

The Exchange Program for Visiting Student Researchers is a short-term (four to six months) program for student researchers to focus on accomplishing specific laboratory, library, or field research, or to undertake specialized training that advances the research and/or scholarship of the faculty of both institutions.