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Biodiversity Blog

 

Shrubs of BFL: Catclaw Acacia

CatclawThis perennial shrub (Senegalia wrightii) grows 6-10 feet tall although some accounts say it can grow to triple this size. The lacey foliage is twice pinnately-compound and semi-evergreen. Pinnately-compound refers to a leaf that is divided into smaller leaflets and those leaflets are arranged along each side of the leaf's central stalk, or rachis....

Meet Stengl-Wyer Scholar: Shana Caro

CanoShana holding a superb starling (Lamprotornis superbus) As part of the new Stengl-Wyer Endowment, the Stengl Wyer Postdoctoral Scholars Program provides up to three years of independent support for talented postdoctoral researchers in the broad area of the diversity of life and/or organisms in their natural environments. Shana Caro is one o...

History of UT Entomology, Part 2: The Fly Years

PattersonJohn T. Patterson. “Sandy-haired and short of stature, he had a ready wit, a love of repartee, and the ebullient temperament we traditionally associate with the Irish people.” -  Theophilus Painter in a 1965 memoir about him Part 1 explored the formative years for UT entomology and the focus on ants, with William Morton Wheeler and his stu...

Members of Hillis Lab Receive NSF Grant

E.latitans web Eurycea latitans embryo (F1) from Honey Creek Cave (Photo: Ruben Tovar) Central Texas salamanders of the Eurycea clade are enigmatic amphibians that live in dark underground water systems. This sort of habitat has given rise to a number of phenotypes of these salamanders, one of which is the focus of a new National Science Foundation ...

Fall Migration of Birds, Texas and Beyond

Prairie warbler Setophaga discolor paludicola male J Prairie Warbler (Photo: Charles J. Sharp -CC BY-SA 4.0) Signs of autumn are all around. The weather is cooling and the days are getting shorter. It’s also a time of migration for some birds. Of Texas’ 615 documented species of birds, about half will migrate. Through the course of the season, millions of birds will pass through the Lone Sta...

BFL to the Rescue: Helping Instructors Teach During a Pandemic

ReadyToLearn All lined up and ready to learn. (Photo: Larry Gilbert) It’s a hot late August afternoon. Classes have started for UT students, but this year things look a little different. Fifteen minutes from campus, at Brackenridge Field Lab (BFL), ecology students stand ready, six feet apart, notebooks in hand, masks covering their mouths and noses. D...

IB Researchers to Lead Three-Year Groundwater Salamander Survey

Mission Valley IMG 4634 Edit 1 Undescribed species from New Braunfels. (Photo: Tom Devitt) Pale-skinned predators swimming about in dark underground caves sounds like something from a horror film, but they do exist. The reality is probably much less frightening once you know these creatures are groundwater salamanders of the Eurycea genus. Members of David Hillis’ lab i...

History of UT Entomology, Part 1: It Begins with Ants

Ants their structure development and behavior 1910 14781912494 From Ants: Their Structure, Development, and Behavior (1910) When UT opened its doors in 1883, biology was not part of the curriculum, despite that faculty at the time pushed for representation of botany and physiology. “The new State University organized in 1883 had more ambitions than resources,” wrote Geneticist and UT professor Clarenc...

Meet Stengl-Wyer Scholar: Chase Smith

Chase SmithAs part of the new Stengl-Wyer Endowment, the Stengl Wyer Postdoctoral Scholars Program provides up to three years of independent support for talented postdoctoral researchers in the broad area of the diversity of life and/or organisms in their natural environments. Chase Smith is one of three scholars starting at UT this year. Chase's researc...

Shrubs of BFL: American Beautyberry

Beautyberry 01 Ripe berries on Beautyberry (Photo: Nicole Elmer) Around this time of year, this shrub is difficult to miss. The normally inconspicuous green berries turn bright purple and become quite popular for wild bird and animal populations. This plant’s scientific name is Callicarpa americana, or better known as the Beautyberry or American Beautybe...

UT’s Non-Digital Biodiversity Specimens Join the Global Digital Revolution

mapThe prestigious journal BioScience just released "Natural History Collections: Advancing the Frontiers of Science," a compilation of recent natural history collection-related papers that sheds light on the importance of digitizing and publishing collections data, and the substantial obstacles confronting collections staff working on that. This come...

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: the Texas Live Oak

oaks2 One of the historic Battle Oaks on the UT campus. Describing a mature live oak as “stately” is a bit of an understatement. They can live several centuries and these older trees command quite a presence. Their trunks can grow 4 feet or more in diameter and their crowns can spread more than 100 feet, sometimes touching the ground in a sprawl...

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: Jumping Spiders

Habronattus pyrrithrix male web Habronattus pyrrithrix male (Photo: Ian M. Wright) Jumping spiders make up the largest family of spiders. Constituting the family Salticidae, this family contains over 600 described genera and over 6000 described species as of 2019. With a family this big, this means jumping spiders show a lot of diversity, and live just about everywh...

Trees of BFL: Cottonwoods and Willows

Summary cottonwood  Cottonwood trees and willows are similar in many ways. They germinate through wind dispersion and colonize moist muddy areas exposed to full sun. Both are present in Brackenridge Field Lab, and the cottonwoods in particular have a close connection to the history of the field lab. COTTONWOODS Cottonwoods (Populus deltoides) are one of the ...

The Challenge of 1%

dungbettle web Dung beetle (Photo: Alex Wild) Natural History collections hold material going back centuries, but the digital revolution means their holdings are now open to everyone, pending the process of digitization. Properly digitizing specimens consumes enormous resources, particularly the one we all have so little of: time. But the Entomology Coll...

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: Cliff Chirping Frog

Eleutherodactylus Syrrhophus marnockii TJD 963 web   Photo: Tom Devitt The Cliff Chirping Frog is an elusive creature. Nocturnal and about the size of a quarter, they are more easily heard than seen. There are actually three species of Chirping Frog in the genus Eleutherodactylus in Central Texas. There is Eleutherodactylus marnockii. They are native and their range is central ...

Part 2: Microsporidia Help BFL Researchers Control Invasive Crazy Ants

TCA Banner web   Photo: Alex Wild  In part one of our blog, the tawny crazy ants (Nylanderia fulva) were overrunning the native species at Estero Llano Grande State Park. Researchers at Brackenridge Field Lab had identified a microsporidian that could possibly control the population, but success rates were still very low. When the resear...

Part 1: Microsporidia Help BFL Researchers Control Invasive Crazy Ants

Crazy ants   Photo: Alex Wild  In 2016, staff at Estero Llano Grande State Park knew something wrong. During night tours for visitors, they noticed many of the normally-seen species like scorpions were gone. They also had not seen many snakes or lizards common to the area. Then came sightings of blinded rabbits. Turns out that this state ...

Stengl Wyer Research Award to Support Creation of Environmental Sensing Network

image1  Angle of prototype. Sensors are to the right and left of the processor. Advances in machine learning and remote sensing provide potential for studying life’s diversity and interactions between organisms and their natural environments. Tim Keitt, professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, and his colleagues are interested in lev...

The Texas Trout

CutthroatToday the only member of the family Salmonidae (trout, salmon and their relatives) that occurs in Texas is the non-native Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss. That species is widely stocked around the state and there is one permanent population in McKittrick Creek, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, where it was introduced in the early 1900s. However...