Jessica Rivera Perez

Project: Paleoecology of kiore in New Zealand

I conducted both my BSc in Cellular-Molecular Biology and my PhD in Molecular Biology in my natal island at the University of Puerto Rico. During my BSc I surveyed the abundance and genetic diversity of multi-antibiotic resistant microbes and their corresponding phages in tropical waters and sand throughout Puerto Rico. I also worked on various side projects including the isolation, characterization and adaptation of local microalgae for biodiesel production.

I fell in love with paleomicrobiology during my BSc, after studying ancient quorum-sensing pathways and antibiotic resistance in bacteria. In my doctoral dissertation I used several next generation sequencing (NGS) techniques to study the fecal microbiomes and viromes of two ancient Amerindian cultures from the Caribbean. By analyzing the ancient DNA preserved in these coprolites, we elucidated a variety of details about the Saladoid and Huecoid cultures, their origins, diets, diseases and lifestyles. In addition, throughout my PhD I collaborated in various side projects that included the development of Vibrio fischeri mutants and the characterization of hypersaline microbiomes in the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia.

I am currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Long-Term Ecology lab in Landcare Research, where I focus on analyzing coprolites from the invasive kiore (Rattus exulans). In this project we use a range of molecular and microscopic techniques on Pacific rat paleofaeces from various time points to reconstruct their diets as well as their interactions and possible impacts to the prehistoric ecosystems of New Zealand following their introduction to these islands.


a) Book chapters

Rivera-Perez JI, Gonzalez AA, Toranzos GA. 2016. “From evolutionary advantage to disease agents: re-evaluating host-microbe interactions and pathogenicity”. Microbiol Spectrum 5(1). EMF-0009-2016. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.EMF-0009-2016.

Rivera-Perez JI, Santiago-Rodriguez TM, Toranzos GA. 2016. “Paleomicrobiology: a snapshot of ancient microbes and approaches to forensic microbiology”. Microbiol Spectrum 4(4): EMF-0006-2015. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.EMF-0006-2015.

Gonzalez, AA, Rivera-Perez JI, Toranzos GA. 2016. “Forensic approaches to detect possible agents of bioterror”. Microbiol Spectrum. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.EMF-0010-2016

b) Articles

Rivera-Perez JI, Cano RJ and Toranzos GA. “Ancient microbial DNA and dogmatic approaches: A Response to critical comments to the paper ‘Retroviral DNA Sequences as a Means for Determining Ancient Diets’. Published on ResearchGate Dec 2016. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.15988.76165

Perez-Fernandez, C, Iriarte, M, Hinojosa, W, Veizaga-Salinas, A, Cano, RJ, Rivera-Perez, J, Toranzos, GA. “First insight into microbial diversity and ion concentration in the Uyuni salt flat, Bolivia”. Caribbean Journal of Science 49(1): 57-75.

Rivera-Perez JI, Cano RJ, Narganes-Storde Y, Chanlatte-Baik L, Toranzos GA. 2015. “Retroviral DNA Sequences as a Means for Determining Ancient Diets”. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0144951. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0144951

Cano, R.J., Rivera-Pérez, J.I., Toranzos, G.A., Santiago-Rodriguez, T.M., Narganes-Storde, Y.M., Chanlatte-Baik, L., Massey, S. 2014. “Paleomicrobiology: Revealing Fecal Microbiomes of Ancient Indigenous Cultures”. PLoS ONE. 9(9): e106833. Published online 2014 September 10. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106833.  PMC ID: PMC4160228

Santiago-Rodriguez, T., Cano, R., Toranzos, G., Patricio, A., Rivera-Pérez, J.I. “Data on ancient microorganisms causes skepticism”. FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2014 Apr; 353(2):87-8. Epub 2014 Mar 26. doi: 10.1111/1574-6968.12414.

Santiago-Rodriguez, TM., Patrício, AR., Rivera-Pérez, J.I., Coradin, M., Gonzalez, A., Tirado, G., Cano, RJ., Toranzos, GA. "luxS in bacteria isolated from 25 to 40 million year-old amber". FEMS Microbiology Letters 2014 Jan;350(1):117-24. doi: 10.1111/1574-6968.12275.

Santiago-Rodriguez, TM., Rivera-Pérez, J.I., Coradin, M. and Toranzos, GA. “Antibiotic-resistance and virulence genes in the bacterial and viral fractions of tropical environmental samples”. Journal of Water and Health 11(3): 387–396. doi:10.2166/wh.2013.005.