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Biodiversity Blog

 
Nicole handles the communications for the Biodiversity Center.
Sigmund and His Eels

Sigmund and His Eels

 Illustration: Nicole Elmer  If someone asks you to imagine Sigmund Freud, what do you see? An older gent with a well-trimmed white beard, cigar in hand? Is he perhaps listening to a patient who talks freely about personal issues while laying on a couch? This is the Freud most know as the famous neurologist and founder of psychoanalysi...
Meet Stengl-Wyer Scholar: Tom Bytnerowicz

Meet Stengl-Wyer Scholar: Tom Bytnerowicz

Fertilizing nitrogen fixing tree seedlings in a greenhouse experiment Thomas Bytnerowicz is our third Stengl-Wyer Scholar this year. He studies the feedbacks between global change and nitrogen and carbon cycling. As part of the Stengl-Wyer Endowment, the Stengl Wyer Postdoctoral Scholars Program provides up to three years of independent sup...
History of UT Entomology, Part 3: "Oz’s" Mosquitoes and Beetles

History of UT Entomology, Part 3: "Oz’s" Mosquitoes and Beetles

Photo: Christine Gilbert As explored in Part 2 of our series, the Drosophila group at UT was still active in the late 1930s, researching genetics through the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as well as Drosophila diversity. But there were other entomologists at UT using different insects for their work around the same time. One was Dr. Osmund...
Shrubs of BFL: Catclaw Acacia

Shrubs of BFL: Catclaw Acacia

This 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

Meet Stengl-Wyer Scholar: Shana Caro

Shana 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

History of UT Entomology, Part 2: The Fly Years

John 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

Members of Hillis Lab Receive NSF Grant

 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

Fall Migration of Birds, Texas and Beyond

 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

BFL to the Rescue: Helping Instructors Teach During a Pandemic

 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

IB Researchers to Lead Three-Year Groundwater Salamander Survey

 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

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

 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

Meet Stengl-Wyer Scholar: Chase Smith

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. Chase Smith is one of three scholars starting at UT this year. Chase's researc...
Shrubs of BFL: American Beautyberry

Shrubs of BFL: American Beautyberry

 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...
BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: the Texas Live Oak

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: the Texas Live Oak

 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

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: Jumping Spiders

 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

Trees of BFL: Cottonwoods and Willows

  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 ...