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Biodiversity Blog

 
Nicole handles the communications for the Biodiversity Center.

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...

Meet Stengl-Wyer Fellow: Julia York

yorkweb About to dissect a Harpagifer antarctius specimen for a transcriptome study (Photo Lloyd Peck) 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 $34,0...
Kinsey's Wasps

Kinsey's Wasps

  A 1953 issue of TIME magazine had this to say about biologist and sexologist Dr. Alfred Kinsey: “Kinsey...has done for sex what Columbus did for geography.” Kinsey’s influential work on human sexuality happened at a time in the US when openly discussing, much less researching, what went on in the bedroom was quite shocking. Nonetheless, h...
Meet Stengl-Wyer Fellow: Colin Morrison

Meet Stengl-Wyer Fellow: Colin Morrison

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, full tuition and fees, staff health insurance, and an allowance of $2,000 to cover research and trav...

From the Jha Lab: Using Pollen to Solve Crime

BeePollen web A carpenter bee. Crime scenes are often the stuff of fascination for many, ripe for the various outputs of fiction. What might be somewhat less glamorous than many TV shows would suggest are some of the crime-solving tools available to forensic investigators. Enter forensic botany and palynology. Forensic botany is the science that connect...

History of UT Entomology, Part 5: Sword's Grasshoppers

BFL grasshopper   Schistocerca lineata In our last blog on the History of UT Entomology, we looked at the damage screwworm flies were causing to livestock until the Sterile Insect Technique was introduced. In this blog, we will be looking at another infamous insect responsible for massive damage to resources such as crops. We begin with some of the...

Brr...It’s Chilly Out There: How Animals Deal With the Cold

736px Eptesicus nilssonii hibernating Northern Bat (Eptesicus nilssonii), a hibernating bat species. Photo: Magne Flåten, GNU Free Documentation License Cold weather brings big shifts in nature. In many places, water sources freeze, plants cease blooming and drop their leaves, and the ground is covered in snow. These conditions mean diminished resources for animals, ...

Meet Stengl-Wyer Fellow: Angelina Dichiera

Dichiera Red drum Angelina with a red drum. (Sciaenops ocellatus) 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, full tuition and fees, staff health insuran...

History of UT Entomology, Part 4: Screwworms

640px Screwworm Cochliomyia hominivorax Key Deer National Refuge Big Pine Key Florida 24909739517 Photo: Judy Gallagher (lCreative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license) Few people want to be a screwworm fly (Cochliomyia hominivorax) for Halloween, but maybe this should be a valid costume choice as what they do is pretty horrifying. In the early to mid-20th century, this obligate parasite, often called just “screwworm” for ...