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Research Group

UC-Mexico Farm Labor Research Cluster

About Us

The agricultural sector has historically bound Mexico and California together in significant ways such as moving people across continents, creating unique cultures, and evolving languages. Economically, California’s agricultural receipts in 2021 alone amounted to $50B while that of Mexico’s were $43.2 during the same year. Mexico ranked fifth in California’s top agricultural export destinations with a value of $1.3B in 2021. California imported goods with a total value of $46B from Mexico in 2021, with agricultural related goods being in the top 4 in terms of value. Unifying this bilateral trade volume between the two regions is the farm labor sector. Despite their tremendous impact to both regions’ economies, farm labor in the United States and in Mexico is severely affected by environmental drivers related to climate change (i.e., heat waves, wildfires, droughts) as well as those directly related to the agricultural sector (i.e., chemical exposure, air, and water quality).

The contributions and wellbeing of farmworkers play critical factors in healthy, sustainable, and equitable food supply chains. The UC-Mexico Farm Labor Research Cluster includes participation from researchers from Mexico and California. Mexican research institutions and the UC system both have a significant depth of knowledge regarding farm labor wellbeing. Tapping into this current knowledge base in both regions will result in an improvement of our understanding as to how environmental drivers impact the farm labor, and increases the possibility of scaling up policies that benefit both regions.

We propose the establishment of a research cluster that is multidisciplinary in nature, and that includes experts in public health, environmental/agricultural economics, agronomy, law, climate change, and indigenous studies among others. The target beneficiaries are not only farmworkers but also other participants in the food supply chain such as food distributors, the agricultural-technological innovation sector, and others.

This research cluster is made possible with support from the University of California Alianza MX.

Our Goals

  • Establish a multidisciplinary UC-Mexico research working group tasked with analyzing the farm labor sectors in Mexico and California, with emphasis on the environmental drivers impacting the wellbeing of farmworkers.
  • Produce UC-Mexico scholarly work, reflecting a strengthening of UC-Mexico research relationships.
  • Develop a UC-Mexico sustainable farm labor research funding strategy for both regions.
  • Incorporate research findings into fam labor policy design in Mexico and California.
  • Increase student-led research that contributes to future collaborations between Mexico and California.

Collaborating Researchers

Alfonso Gonzales Toribio

Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, UC Riverside

Alfonso Gonzales Toribio is an advanced Associate Professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies and has served as the Director of the Latin American Studies Program at UCR since the fall of 2017. Under his leadership, UCR’s Latin American Studies Program has become a more robust center for intellectual life on our campus, sponsoring dozens of lectures and events, and mentoring graduate and undergraduates for diverse careers. As Director, he secured a $1 million endowment from Ronald H. Chilcote and co-authored a $2.9 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the emergent Center for Latino and Latin American Studies and related projects in the Latino communities of the Inland Empire.

Ann Cheney

Associate Professor, UC Riverside School of Medicine

Ann Cheney, PhD, is associate professor in the Department of Social Medicine Population and Public Health at the University of California Riverside School of Medicine. She is a medical anthropologist and conducts community based participatory research as a vehicle to empower grassroots leaders to activate communities and change narratives of health and wellbeing. Dr. Cheney’s current work focuses on the impact of structural inequality in health with a focus on Latinx and Indigenous Mexican immigrants in rural desert communities in Inland Southern California. She is founder of the HABLAMoS (Hispanic And Bilingual Ambulatory Medical Studies) curriculum and faculty director of the Coachella Valley Free Clinic.

Armando Sánchez Vargas

Director, Institute for Economic Research, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Dr. Armando Sanchez-Vargas is Director of the Institute for Economic Research of UNAM (IIEc). He has an award from the Mexican National Research Council (SNI 2). He has published articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Climatic Change, Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, and Journal of International Money and Finance He has been a leader for national and international research projects relating to agricultural economics.

Asa Bradman

Professor of Public Health, UC Merced

Asa Bradman is an expert in exposure assessment and epidemiology focusing on occupational and environmental exposures to pregnant women, children, and farmworkers living in agricultural communities. In 1998 he co-founded the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH) at UC Berkeley and in 2020 Bradman joined the faculty at UC Merced. Bradman leads exposure and epidemiologic studies examining pesticides, flame retardants, metals, emerging pollutants, VOCs, air quality and other contaminants. He participates in extensive community outreach and education and interfaces with other scientists, state and federal agencies, policy makers and industry. He is past member and Chair of the California Biomonitoring Scientific Guidance Panel (appointed by Governors Schwarzennegger in 2007, Brown in 2013), and in 2017 he was appointed to a five-year term on the USDA National Organic Standards Board.

Carlos Martinez

Assistant Professor, UC Santa Cruz

Carlos Martinez, MPH, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Latin American and Latino Studies and core faculty member of the Global and Community Health program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Trained in public health and medical anthropology, Carlos’ research examines the health consequences and sociocultural implications of migrant policing, deportation, our fractured asylum system, environmental injustice, and the global War on Drugs. His primary research project has consisted of long-term ethnographic fieldwork examining how U.S. asylum deterrence and deportation policies have transformed the U.S.-Mexico borderland region into a zone of captivity for asylum seekers and Mexican deportees. He is also involved with several community-engaged and interdisciplinary research projects in Tijuana, the Bay Area, and the Santa Cruz area focused on the health-related impacts of environmental injustice, climate change, and punitive drug policy on Latinx communities.

Carly Hyland

Assistant Professor of Cooperative Extension, Environmental Health Sciences, UC Berkeley

Dr. Hyland is an Assistant Professor of Cooperative Extension in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences in the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. Her work focuses on using community engaged research methods to mitigate climate-intensified hazards among agricultural workers, with a focus on pesticides, heat and wildfire smoke.

Dora-Luz Flores

Professor of Bioengineering, Autonomous University of Baja California

Dora-Luz Flores is a computer engineer and a professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the Autonomous University of Baja California. She holds a Master of Science degree from Instituto Politécnico Nacional and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from UABC. Dr. Flores is a prominent member of the National System of Researchers and leads the pioneering Bionanoengineering research group. Her academic portfolio boasts over 30 peer-reviewed publications and six book chapters, reflecting her expertise in artificial intelligence applied to biological systems, simulation of complex systems, computational biology, and agent-based systems.

Dr. Flores is a mentor to nearly 20 undergraduate and postgraduate students. She serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the Mexican Journal of Biomedical Engineering for the term 2022-2025. In 2018, her contributions were recognized with a Fulbright-García Robles scholarship, which allowed her to conduct research at the University of California Irvine. Additionally, Dr. Flores is a member of the Liaison Committee of the ISC Regional Focal Point for the Latin American and Caribbean Region and currently serves as the General Coordinator of Research and Postgraduate Studies at UABC.

Federico Castillo

Project Scientist, Berkeley Food Institute

Federico Castillo is an Environmental/Agricultural Economist with PhD and undergraduate degrees from UC Berkeley. Federico’s research centers technology transfer and innovation, economic valuation, socio-economic impacts of climate change, and the economic aspects of protected areas and migration. He contributes in developing a research agenda on climate change, agriculture and population issues in Berkeley. He is also engaged in research with scholars from The Tropical Agricultural Research Center (CATIE), the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) and UC Davis in projects over ecosystem based adaptation to climate change, the socio economic impact of weather extremes in California agriculture and climate change impacts on migration from Mexico to the US. He has taught courses related to migration to the United States, natural resource economics, and economics of climate change and sustainable business practices.

Francisco Benítez

Project Scientist, Berkeley Food Institute / UC Agriculture & Natural Resources

Francisco Benítez Altuna (he/him) was born in Quito, Ecuador, where he earned an engineering degree in agro-industry from the EPN and managed the yellow corn value chain at the Ministry of Agriculture. He received a dual MA in agribusiness and rural development from the University of Göttingen and the University of Talca. He holds a Ph.D. from Wageningen University, focused on sustainable food value chains. He is a Project Scientist in a joint position with the Berkeley Food Institute (BFI) and the University of California (UCANR). His research addresses policy and socioeconomic barriers toward sustainable food systems. He is interested in analyzing governance mechanisms, farmers’ learning process, contracting, market orientation, and equity inclusion of the actors involved.

Gabriela Ortiz

Doctoral Candidate in Medical Anthropology, UC Riverside

Gabriela Ortiz is doctoral candidate in medical anthropology at UC Riverside. Her dissertation research examines the political economy of health, health infrastructures, infrastructural violence, and access to health services among Latinx and Indigenous Purépecha farm-working communities in the Eastern Coachella Valley.

Georgia Kayser

Assistant Professor of Global and Environmental Health, UC San Diego

Georgia Kayser, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Global and Environmental Health in the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Deputy Director of the University of California Planetary Health Center of Expertise. Her environmental health research focuses on adolescent and children’s environmental health, water quality, environmental determinants of risk, and environmental health inequities and disparities. In her research she has explored the factors that limit access to safe and sustainable drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) services, globally; identified environmental determinants of risk, including pesticide and microbiological contaminants in drinking water; and examined environmental health disparities that result from gender, racial/ethnic, and geographic inequities. This research informs environmental health programs and policy. Her methodological expertise is in the use of cross-sectional studies to explore WaSH risk factors for disease across countries, formative research to identify interventions, experimental and quasi-experimental methods to test specific interventions, and geospatial analysis to understand patterns of exposure. She has conducted research in over 20 countries across the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia with funding from government, international organization, and private sector sources.

Dr. Kayser is currently working on a NIEHS funded K01 career award that explores pesticide exposures, mental health and endocrine disruption among children growing up near pesticide spray sites in Ecuador. She is also working on a NIDA funded study of WaSH access among people who inject drugs, many of whom are unhoused, and live on the US-Mexico border between Tijuana, and San Diego. Dr. Kayser enjoys mentoring students in her research and teaching environmental and global health courses at UCSD.

Prior to UCSD, Dr. Kayser was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of North Carolina in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. She holds a PhD from The Fletcher School at Tufts University where she concentrated in Development Economics and has a B.S. in Policy Analysis from Cornell University.

Juan Luis Hernández Pérez

Professor, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Juan Luis Hernández Pérez is a researcher and professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) associated with the Institute of Social Research (IIS). His main research fields are technological and social innovations, agricultural economics and rural sociology, food systems and globalization, climate change, and rural livelihoods.

Luis Carvajal-Carmona

Professor, UC Davis School of Medicine

Dr. Luis Carvajal-Carmona is the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Diversity and a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the University of California at Davis (UCD). He holds the Auburn Community Cancer Endowed Chair in Basic Science. He serves as the Center for Advancing Cancer Health Director and co-director of the Community Engagement Program at the Clinical and Translational Science Center. Dr. Carvajal-Carmona obtained his Ph.D. from University College London, completed postdoctoral training at the London Research Institute, and was a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. Dr. Carvajal-Carmona specializes in cancer genetics, epidemiology, health disparities, and global health. He has discovered multiple cancer genes and has published over 100 research manuscripts. His main contributions to science include the elucidation of the genetic origins of Latino populations, discovering the first common variants increasing the risk of colorectal cancer, and identifying a novel familial form of gastric cancer.

María Josefa Santos Corral

Professor of Social Anthropology, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

María Josefa Santos Corral is a doctor of social anthropology. Her area of ​​specialty is related to social problems of knowledge transfer, within the lines of technology and culture and social studies of innovation. She has worked with different groups ranging from large Mexican companies to small agricultural production, including libraries and small businesses owned by Mexican migrants in the United States. In these areas she has edited 7 books and articles in specialized journals. She has also supervised numerous bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral theses. The results of her research have also supported decision-making in technology and knowledge transfer projects.

Martha Judith Sánchez Gómez

Research Professor, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Martha Judith Sánchez Gómez is a senior researcher at the UNAM Social Research Institute. She has a doctorate in Social Sciences with a specialty in Sociology from El Colegio de México. She has carried out research stays in the United States at UC Berkeley (with a Fulbright scholarship), in Spain at the universities of Valencia and Burgos and in Argentina at the CEIL-Conicet. She has conducted research in different rural and urban areas in Mexico and the United States, analyzing the migration and settlement of Mexican, Indigenous and mestizo migrants and their relationships with their communities of origin. She has also carried out the study of wine-growing areas in Spain in Ribera del Duero and in Argentina in the province of Mendoza. Her intellectual concerns have focused on the field of rural studies, migrations and national and international mobilities, and the issues of gender, ethnicity, living conditions, work and settlement of workers in the vineyards, changes in rural territories and recently in wine tourism.

Matt Sparke

Professor of Politics, UC Santa Cruz

Sparke’s work focuses on the changing geography of politics and citizenship in the context of globalization, including most recently various forms of sub-citizenship and suffering among farmworkers amid climate change. His older research has examined how borders, geopolitics and national sovereignty are remade in the context of trade liberalization. His work in North America, Europe and South East Asia complicated simplistic ‘geoeconomic’ meta-narratives about ‘the end of the nation-state’ and a ‘borderless world’ in the new millennium. It showed instead how forms of national sovereignty were still being drawn upon to enforce pro-market governance and neoliberal norms of citizenship at a transnational scale. As well as being written-up and published in a wide variety of articles and book chapters, this work also informed his first book, In The Space of Theory: Postfoundational Geographies of the Nation-State (Minneapolis, 2005).Funded by a NSF CAREER award and support from other foundations, Sparke continued to study the impact of globalization on governance and citizenship into the present, including in his second book, Introducing Globalization: Ties, Tensions and Uneven Integration (Oxford, 2013).

Michael Méndez

Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy & Urban Planning, UC Irvine

“Dr. Michael Méndez is an assistant professor of environmental policy and planning at the University of California, Irvine, an Andrew Carnegie Fellow, and Visiting Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (through a National Science Foundation Early Faculty Career Award). He previously was the Pinchot Faculty Fellow in Sustainability Studies at the Yale School of the Environment. Michael has more than a decade of senior-level experience in the public and private sectors, where he consulted and actively engaged in the policymaking process.

His first book “Climate Change from the Streets,” published through Yale University Press (2020), is an urgent and timely story of the contentious politics of incorporating environmental justice into global climate change policy. The book was the winner of the Harold and Margaret Sprout Award, sponsored by the International Studies Association and the Betty and Alfred McClung Lee Award by the Association for Humanist Sociology. In 2021, he became the first Latinx scholar to receive the National Academies of Sciences’ Henry and Bryna David Endowment Award for his wildfire and migrant research. The David Endowment makes an annual award (research grant) to a “”leading researcher who has drawn insights from the behavioral and social sciences to inform public policy. In addition, he was awarded the 2023 William R. and June Dale Scholar Prize. The Dale Prize honors scholars and practitioners for excellence in urban planning and environmental justice work and research.

Michael Wehner

Senior Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Dr. Wehner’s current research concerns the behavior of extreme weather events in a changing climate, especially heat waves, intense precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones. Before joining the Berkeley Lab in 2002, Wehner was an analyst at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the Program for Climate Modeling Diagnosis and Intercomparison. He is the author or co-author of over 250 scientific papers and reports. He was a lead author for the 2013 Fifth and 2021 Sixth Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the 2nd,3rd, 4th and 5th US National Climate Assessments. Dr. Wehner earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Delaware. He received the 2022 LBNL Director’s Award for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and was named a Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Rafael Alarcón Acosta

Research Professor, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte

Rafael Alarcón Acosta is research professor in the Department of Social Studies at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana, Mexico and holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. In 2022, he was distinguished as a National Emeritus Researcher by Mexico’s Sistema Nacional de Investigadores. As a specialist on international migration, he has published research on:the economic and social effects of migration, the integration of immigrants, the immigration policies regarding skilled persons and the criminalization and deportation of migrants. In 2022 with Telésforo Ramírez, he coauthored the article: “Esenciales pero vulnerables: trabajadores agrícolas mexicanos ante la pandemia del COVID-19 en Estados Unidos” Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos Vol. 38, Num 1. In collaboration with Luis Escala and Olga Odgers, he coauthored the book: Making Los Angeles Home. The Integration of Mexican Immigrants in the United States (University of California Press, 2016).

Ricardo Cisneros

Associate Professor of Public Health, UC Merced

Ricardo Cisneros is an associate Professor of Environmental Public Health at the University of California Merced. He received a PhD from the University of California at Merced in Environmental Systems. He also completed a two year postdoctoral appointment in exposure science from the University of California Davis, Department of Public Health Sciences.

Rosa D. Manzo

Project Scientist, UC Merced

Dr. Rosa D. Manzo is an interdisciplinary community-engaged researcher and practitioner. She has extensive experience with community-based participatory action research for program development and implementation in the health and education fields. She has developed university-campus partnerships with Promotora groups across the San Joaquin Valley region. She has been critical in the development of medical school curricula that incorporates a community-engaged approach to addressing health disparities in the San Joaquin Valley and has served as a research mentor for numerous medical and undergraduate students. She draws from evidence-based practices and her lived-experience as a first-generation student from the San Joaquin Valley to engage educational leaders, community stakeholders, and professionals in the development of programs that address the health and education needs of local communities.

Sam Ying

Assistant Professor of Soil Biogeochemistry, UC Riverside

Sam Ying (she/they) is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Science Department at UC Riverside. Sam’s research unravels complex processes within soils that shape water quality, and food security. Their work seeks to provide soil and water management practices for a healthy and sustainable future while training the leaders of tomorrow through interdisciplinary collaborations with researchers from fields such as economics, public policy, sociology, and biomedical sciences, and engagement with community-based organizations. Sam currently serves as co-director of the UC Global Health Institute Planetary Health Center, director of the UCR chapter of Latinxs and the Environment program, and core lead for the UCR Health Disparities Research Center. Sam received their B.S. degrees in physical geography and microbiology from UC Santa Barbara, a Ph.D. in Earth System Science from Stanford University followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Woods Institute for the Environment.

Susana Matias

Assistant Professor of Cooperative Extension Nutrition, UC Berkeley

Susana Matias is an Assistant Specialist/Assistant Professor in Cooperative Extension Nutrition and one of the Berkeley Food Institute Co-Associate Directors at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Matias is a public health nutrition researcher with +15 years of experience in this field. Her research focuses on nutrition issues of public health relevance, such as food security, diet quality and their association with health and wellbeing. She uses different epidemiological research designs (e.g. observational, longitudinal, randomized trials) to study these topics on women and children (e.g. WIC population), Latino immigrants (e.g. farmworkers) and other underserved groups. Dr. Matias holds a Ph.D. in Epidemiology, with Emphasis in International and Community Nutrition, from the University of California, Davis. Previously, she completed graduate and undergraduate studies in Psychology at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. Prior to joining UC Berkeley, Dr. Matias worked as a research scientist at UC Davis and the California Department of Public Health.

Susana Ramírez

Associate Professor of Public Health, UC Merced

As an infodemiologist, Dr. Susana Ramírez applies communication science to advance public health goals. She is a nationally recognized expert on media, inequality, and health. Her research—published in Social Science & Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, Journal of Health Communication, and other journals—has examined the development and effectiveness of culturally tailored messages for Latinas, centering an interrogation of “culture” and acculturation processes in message effectiveness studies. Her current work examines policy discourse and media advocacy strategies pertaining to population health and builds on a framework for racialized marketing. She is a co-editor of the forthcoming Handbook of Language in Public Health and Healthcare (Wiley, 2024). She is currently an Associate Professor of Public Health Communication at the University of California in Merced.

Telésforo Ramírez García

Researcher, Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología

Telésforo Ramírez García has a doctorate in population studies from El Colegio de México, a master’s degree in demography from El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (El Colef) and a degree in Agricultural Economics from the Universidad Autónoma Chapingo (UACh). Throughout his career he has worked as a professor of research methodology, statistics, international migration and aging at different universities and higher research centers in the country. Between 2011 and 2013 he was director of the area of ​​Socioeconomic Studies and International Migration of the Consejo Nacional de Población (Conapo). He is a member of the Sistema Nacional de Investigadores (SNI) Level I. He currently works as a Researcher for Mexico of theConsejo Nacional de Ciencia, Humanidades y Tecnología (Conahcyt) at the Centro Regional de Investigaciones Multidisciplinarias (CRIM) of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).