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Biodiversity Blog

 
Nicole handles the communications for the Biodiversity Center.
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...
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...
A Case for Eels

A Case for Eels

 Hannah Chapman Tripp helps set the specimen jar. (Photo: Adam Cohen) The Life Science Library on the second floor of the Main Building is something to behold. With its high ceilings displaying quotations in gold paint, to the massive chandeliers, some have likened it to Hogwarts, the fictional British boarding school of magic in J.K. Rowli...
Pets as Invasive Species, an Introduction

Pets as Invasive Species, an Introduction

Lucy (back) and Olive (front), two out of three of the author's feline invasive species. Humans have pets for lots of reasons. Companionship, protection, admiration of the animal’s beauty, an excuse to get outside for a walk. As much as we don’t want to hear it, our beloved Fido or Snowball, when mismanaged, can become invasive and threaten biod...

History of UT Herpetology, Part 2: Mike Ryan's Work on Amphibian Communication

TungaraFrog web A male Túngara frog. (Photo: Ryan Taylor) Herpetology at UT really kicked into gear when William Frank Blair arrived in 1946. Our first blog in this series looked at his influence on herpetology research and the Herpetology Collection. Here, we’ll review some of Blair’s work on frog communication, and how this focus carried into the presen...
Saving the Guadalupe fescue

Saving the Guadalupe fescue

 Guadalupe fescue. (Photo: Carolyn Whiting) West Texas is known for arid landscapes reminiscent of old Western movies rather than cool damp mountains 6000 feet in altitude. But this is what areas of the Chisos Mountains are like, and where UT researchers have been surveying a rare grass, the Guadalupe fescue (Festuca ligulata). While once s...

The Delicate Unseen World

PhotoA webA small example of groundwater species. (Gilbert & Culver, 2009, Freshwater Biology) When we think about biodiversity, we often imagine life on ground, in the sea and air. Rarely do we think about biodiversity being in places we can’t see. Beneath our feet, there are water sources with vast amounts of life, species being discovered, and spec...

The Power of Switchgrass: a Chat with Tom Juenger

BFL webDrought experiments with switchgrass using the rainout shelters in the Experimental Garden at BFL. As a field station near the heart of Austin, Brackenridge Field Lab hosts important research by many UT faculty. Amongst them is Dr. Tom Juenger in the Department of Integrative Biology. He studies ecological and evolutionary genetics of local adap...
Meet Stengl-Wyer Fellow: Alex Nishida

Meet Stengl-Wyer Fellow: Alex Nishida

Alex isolating bacterial strains from the gut microbiomes of captive great apes. The Stengl-Wyer Endowment supports year-long fellowships for doctoral candidates pursuing dissertation research in the area of Diversity of life and organisms in their natural environments. Recipients will receive a 12-month stipend of $34,000, f...
Influential People of Biodiversity: Billie Turner

Influential People of Biodiversity: Billie Turner

Posing in 1970 with Perityle turneri (Asteraceae), one of many species named in Turner's honor. (Photo: Mike Powell) I first met Billie Turner in early 2016. That was when I’d started working on the Integrative Biology History project, and as Turner had a seven-decade career, I knew I had to interview him. With so much to cover, one meeting woul...
Sorting Fish

Sorting Fish

Those preserved specimens in natural history collections didn't get into their jars or drawers on their own. Quite a bit of work was involved, not only in the field, but also in the lab. This time lapse video from the Ichthyology Collection shows one of the first steps, sorting the specimens into jars.  
  And then...
Featured Species: Clown Beetle

Featured Species: Clown Beetle

  Clown beetles, also known as Hister beetles, are a family (Histeridae) that contains over 3900 species. Their unusually glossy-but-sculptured surfaces and spiny appendages make them sought after by some collectors. They are found throughout the world, but not terribly common in Central Texas, which is why when Dr. Alex Wild, Curator ...
The Power of Poop

The Power of Poop

We all know poop. When it comes to plants, we might think of poop as the manure that gives our yards and crops a little pep and vigor. But poop is also one of the many ways plants propagate. Plants need a little help getting their offspring out into the world. They’ve evolved many methods to do that, and providing a nutritional bit of food to a pas...
Meet Lepidopterist Alma Solis

Meet Lepidopterist Alma Solis

Alma outside the lab at Rancho del Cielo Biological Station during her Master’s research there. Dr. Alma Solis is a research entomologist at the Systematic Entomology Laboratory (SEL) of the Agricultural Research Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and is located at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonia...
It got really cold. What does that mean for Texas biodiversity?

It got really cold. What does that mean for Texas biodiversity?

The February winter storm “Uri” saw temperatures drop into the single digits and stay below freezing for days. The last time Austin had single digit temperatures was in 1989, the year the Berlin wall fell, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade came out, and Taylor Swift was born. So, yeah. It’s been a while. Uri not only caused havoc for Texans and ou...

History of UT Herpetology, Part 1: The Early Decades

SpotTheLizard Look close! There's a Texas Spiny Lizard there. (Photo from Field Studies of the Behavior of the Lizard Sceloporus spinosus floridanus) When UT became an official university in 1883, a biology program, much less a Herpetology Collection, was not on the agenda. It didn’t mean there were not some advocates pushing for physiology and botany c...