Science in the Sierra Madre: Developing Infrastructure for Multidisciplinary Research at the CICHAZ Field Station -
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This FSML improvement grant proposal addresses the infrastructure and shared instrumentation needs of the Centro de Investigaciones Cientificas de las Huastecas "Aguazarca" (CICHAZ) field station located in the Sierra Madre Oriental (http://www.cichaz.org/). CICHAZ is located in the unique Sierra y Huasteca region of central Mexico, an area high in biological and cultural diversity but devoid of academic and research institutions. This field station is associated with Texas A&M University and hosts an increasing number of scientists annually who need a broad array of scientific resources. Since its founding in 2005, CICHAZ has hosted over 150 researchers in the natural and social sciences from over 30 institutions internationally, fostered 9 Ph.D. and two Master''s theses, and attracted 11 NSF-funded projects. CICHAZ has provided research and cultural experiences for undergraduates, local residents, and members of the U.S. public. In addition to long-term lodging for up to 11 researchers, the station has built up facilities including an indoor fishroom, an array of 24 aquatic mesocosms, and a small laboratory for molecular biology. This award will provide the infrastructure and equipment for collecting and analyzing genomic data; controlled husbandry of plants and animals; and ecological and evolutionary studies in the region. With this grant, an existing laboratory will be converted into a standard molecular wet lab, featuring a MinIon genome sequencer. This will enable researchers to collect and analyze nucleic acid data in situ within the course of a field stay. Two new greenhouse facilities will be erected to house animals and plants for controlled studies, as well as sustainable improvements to address the anticipated increase in energy needs. Finally, the station will acquire a mobile laboratory flexibly equipped with instruments for stream sampling, water quality analysis, and sedimentary core extraction. These proposed improvements have fundamental impacts on outreach efforts, and will ensure success of broader impacts initiatives including research experiences for US and Mexican undergraduates, and for local K-12 students, focused on integrating field and environmental approaches with state-of-the-art techniques for measurement and analysis. The mobile laboratory will revolutionize engagement with schools and with remote indigenous communities, by enabling visiting researchers to work with staff in designing outreach programs in local communities.