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Biodiversity Blog

 
Pets as Invasive Species: Cats

Pets as Invasive Species: Cats

 Cute but deadly. Author's cat, Hazel, poses in the sun. It’s not often an invasive species is crowned as ruler of the internet. That title goes to cats. From chatrooms with “Meowspeak,” to I Can Haz Cheezeburger, to Grumpy Cat (R.I.P), it’s funny to imagine fire ants or zebra mussels ever getting adorable memes made about them. With cats, ...
UT Spring 2022 Bee Competition

UT Spring 2022 Bee Competition

 USDA Photo by Jack Dykinga Bring us the first Travis County mason bee of 2022, you’ll win a native Osmia bee house! Rationale: One measure of our changing climate is the shifting dates of emergence of our earliest spring flowers and insects. As Texas warms, some of our local bees may start coming out earlier in the year, and the Biodiversi...
Meet Stengl-Wyer Fellow: David Ledesma

Meet Stengl-Wyer Fellow: David Ledesma

David Ledesma is one of our 2021 Stengl-Wyer Fellows. With his advisor Dr. Melissa Kemp, he studies the responses of herpetofauna (non-avian reptiles and amphibians) to environmental changes, and the long-term responses of herpetofauna over the last 21,000 years. As part of the Stengl Wyer Endowment, the Stengl Wyer Fellows Program supports ye...
What We Talk About When We Talk About Snakes

What We Talk About When We Talk About Snakes

What comes to mind when you imagine a snake? A rattler hissing and shaking its tail, ready to strike? A coral snake and the common identification rhyme “Red touches black, venom lack. Red touches yellow, kill a fellow”? Do you coil (pun intended) in fear? You’re not alone. Fear of snakes ranks in the top phobias for adults. This fear is called “oph...
Stengl-Wyer REU Program: supporting undergraduates in the natural sciences

Stengl-Wyer REU Program: supporting undergraduates in the natural sciences

 Jenifer Dubon (left) and Jaylin Knight (right) The Stengl-Wyer Endowment is the largest endowment in the history of the College of Natural Sciences. It supports UT Austin’s programming in ecology and biological research, with a focus on the study of the diversity of life and interactions between living things and their natural environments...
Meet Stengl Wyer Fellow: Nick Ivers

Meet Stengl Wyer Fellow: Nick Ivers

 Setting trap nests to catch cavity nesting bees and wasps in the Edwards Plateau. Nick Ivers is one of our 2021 Stengl-Wyer Fellows. He is a is a PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Shalene Jha where they work towards the conservation of native pollinators amid rapid habitat loss and degradation. As part of the Stengl Wyer Endowment,...
Eel. It's what's for (Thanksgiving) dinner.

Eel. It's what's for (Thanksgiving) dinner.

 Illustration: Nicole Elmer Ah, Thanksgiving. We visit family, for better or for worse, slave for hours in the kitchen, gorge ourselves on football, and gather around a table to feast on a big fat roasted...eel? Historians agree that the very first Thanksgiving dinners had not only the ubiquitous turkey, but other fowl, venison, and yes, ee...
Applications open for the 2022 Stengl-Wyer Fellows Program

Applications open for the 2022 Stengl-Wyer Fellows Program

The College of Natural Sciences is pleased to announce that it is now accepting applications for the 2022 Stengl-Wyer Graduate Fellowship Competition. The Stengl-Wyer Graduate Fellowship funds doctoral candidates pursuing dissertation research on the diversity of life and organisms in their natural environments, across many disciplines wi...
History of UT Herpetology, Part 3: Eric Pianka, the "Lizard Man"

History of UT Herpetology, Part 3: Eric Pianka, the "Lizard Man"

 Pianka in his office. Eric Pianka hasn’t earned the nickname “Lizard Man” for nothing. His lifelong work with lizards started as a childhood fascination for them, and eventually made him one of the world authorities on lizard ecology. But with 150 publications and a career spanning over half a century at UT, maybe Pianka should have a few ...
Applications open for 2022 Stengl-Wyer Scholars Program

Applications open for 2022 Stengl-Wyer Scholars Program

The College of Natural Sciences is pleased to announce that it is now accepting applications for the 2022 Stengl-Wyer Scholars Competition! Recent Ph.D.s are invited to apply for distinguished postdoctoral positions to study the diversity of life and/or organisms in their natural environments at The University of Texas at Austin (UT), one...

All things creepy: parasitism, pt 5, crypt keepers

Euderus setThe crypt keeper (Photo from paper by Scott P. Egan, Kelly L. Weinersmith, Sean Liu, Ryan D. Ridenbaugh, Y. Miles Zhang, Andrew A. Forbes. Creative Commons.) Talk about a nightmare of a roommate. Imagine yourself to be a larvae of gall wasp, the species Bassettia pallida more specifically. You are inside the gall of an oak tree, a gall that...

All things creepy: parasitism pt 4, mite pockets

MiteMeetsLizard Photos: Wilfredor (iguana) and Alan R Walker (mite)- Creative Commons Pockets are pretty cool things. We put our belongings in them, warm our hands on cold days in them. Some lizards have them too, but they aren’t storing cell phones in them. Chiggers live in these pockets, although sometimes a tick finds its way in there too. Chiggers are...
All things creepy: parasitism pt 3, the tongue biters

All things creepy: parasitism pt 3, the tongue biters

Peek a boo! (Photo: Elkin Fricke, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International) Cat got your tongue? Not in this case. Something else does. Meet the “tongue biters,” Cymothoa exigua, a species of parasitic isopods in the family Cymothoidae. These things range in size from 0.3-1.1 inches in length for the females, and...
All things creepy: parasitism pt 2, the corpse lily

All things creepy: parasitism pt 2, the corpse lily

Photo: Henrik Ishihara Globaljuggler (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported) Next in our parasitism series is the flowering plant in the parasitic genus Rafflesia, also known by the evocative names of the “corpse lily” or “carrion flower.” Why does it deserve our attention in the Halloween series? Because it t...
All things creepy: parasitism pt 1, mermithids and earwigs

All things creepy: parasitism pt 1, mermithids and earwigs

This is a mermithid found in an Asian Hornet. (Wikicommons photo: PeerJ, 2015) In the spirit of Halloween and all that is spooky, we are doing a series of short blogs on parasitism! In biology, parasitism at its most basic level is where one species benefits at the expense of its host. The parasite does not always kill its host, but when it does...
A Lizard in Winter

A Lizard in Winter

With the weather finally cooling, I think about the upcoming winter. Usually, it’s the most beloved Austin season for me as I can go outside comfortably without the aid of mosquito repellent, for about a month anyway. This year however, I wonder about the next season with some trepidation. Most of us here in Austin right now remember winter storm U...

Meet Stengl Wyer Scholar: Liming Cai

Cai web400x400Liming Cai is one of our 2021 Stengl-Wyer Scholars. She is a systematic biologist broadly interested in the study of phylogenetics and evolutionary genomics of plants. Her research integrates fieldwork, herbarium collections, and genomic analysis to characterize the patterns and drivers of biodiversity. As part of the Stengl Wyer Endowment, th...
Pets as Invasive Species: Fish Gone Wild

Pets as Invasive Species: Fish Gone Wild

by Nicole Elmer and Adam Cohen, Ichthyology Collection Manager  Illustration: Nicole Elmer Pet fish may not purr and curl up in your lap or bark when they see you, but because of their colors, anatomy, and behaviors they can be interesting and beautiful to observe in their aquariums or backyard ponds. But sometimes their owners decide...

Through the Herbarium Cabinet: a Student View of the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center

Sarah 2 webby Sarah Hunter This summer, through the ongoing haze of the COVID-19 global pandemic, I had the unique opportunity to explore the inner workings of the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center at UT. The Herbarium Curation Summer Graduate Fellowship program allowed me three months of hands-on training in the varied aspects of herbarium curat...
Shrubs of BFL: Texas lantana

Shrubs of BFL: Texas lantana

Photos: Larry Gilbert   This ubiquitous native low shrub is hard to miss. Part of the verbena family, those red, orange, and yellow blooms appear when the weather in Central Texas becomes close to unbearable. The scientific name is Lantanta urticoides, however it often gets confused with Lantana horrida, the name inspired by its strong odor...