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Biodiversity Blog

 
Nicole handles the communications for the Biodiversity Center.

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...

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: Texas Spiny Lizard

Texas Spiny Lizard Sceloporus olivaceus 31037017       Photo: Clinton & Charles Robertson from RAF Lakenheath, UK & San Marcos, TX, USA & UK (Creative Commons) If the Green Anole is the showy lizard presence in a garden, scampering around while flaring its red dewlap, the Texas Spiny Lizard is the opposite, typically shy, and well-camouflaged agai...

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: Grasshoppers!

Aidemona1 X2This colorful insect that looks like it’s about to go to a carnival is actually the nymph of Aidemona azteca. The adults of this species are drab in appearance. (Photo: Alex Wild) Grasshoppers are one of the oldest living group of chewing herbivorous insects, dating back to the early Triassic around 250 million years ago. In Central Texas, we ha...

Old Croone Day!

William Croone 1680  Croone as painted in 1680 by Mary Beale, one of the most prolific British portrait painters at the time. Got plans on June 4th? Looking for something to celebrate? Might think about Old Croone Day. While it’s not official, the day honors a man who gave us a lot when it comes to the modern natural history collection. Dr. William Croone (...

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: Mediterranean gecko

586px Mediterranean house gecko Photo: ZooFari (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.) Mediterranean gecko? What? But we’re in Texas! While these are an Old World species, native to Southern Europe and North Africa, Mediterranean geckos have been introduced to many areas of the world, including Texas. They are common around Austin. You’...
Meet Eric Abelson

Meet Eric Abelson

Eric Abelson is a Research Scientist in the Department of Integrative Biology. He works closely with the Biodiversity Center.     Tell us where you came from before UT, and what you studied. After receiving my Ph.D. from Stanford University, where I worked on wildlife behavior and conservation ecology, I went on to two post-doc po...

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: Dandelions

640px Taraxacum officinale 001   Photo: H. Zell (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.) Some make wishes while blowing their seeds into the wind. Others eat them or use them in medicine. And others frown when they see them popping up on their lawns. These are dandelions, probably a plant that just about everyone can identify,...

Viruses, biodiversity, and evolution

Virus planet web   Illustration: Nicole Elmer Viruses are tiny but their impact on life is huge. This is true not just for people, but for all life forms on earth. Some researchers believe that viruses might just be the most successful of earth’s inhabitants. But why might this be? To understand this requires looking at the attributes that allow liv...

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: White-Winged Dove

1571px White wnged Dove Zenaida asiatica RWD   Photo: Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org/) If you step outside, you can probably hear this bird in a nearby tree, cooing softly. Or you might see it foraging on the ground, its head bobbing back and forth on its plump beige body. This is the white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica). Its name tells you how to tell it apart from ot...

Where Do Viruses Come From?

Viruses gym web   Illustration: Nicole Elmer The origin of viruses is a hotly debated topic. It’s unclear how they first evolved. However, there are many ideas floating around out there. There are three classical hypotheses but many new ideas and discoveries challenging them. The first one is the virus first hypothesis, and states that since viruse...

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: Green Anoles

IMG 7475 web   Female Green Anole, looking a little brownish-green. (Photo: Travis Laduc) With more time than usual at our homes, and the weather not searing hot yet, it’s a great opportunity to get outside and become familiar with the species we have in our own backyards! The Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) is a common lizard not difficu...

Some Virus History and Origins

cell or bust highway small   Illustration: Nicole Elmer The history of viruses is difficult to trace because they don’t exist in the fossil record. Unlike our beloved dinosaurs, viruses don’t have bones that can be fossilized, and they are just too small and fragile. However, there is another way viruses can make their mark in the fossil record, and that’s th...

CAMPUS BIODIVERSITY: Northern Mockingbirds

bird m   Photo: Kathryn Gatliff The Northern Mockingbird is probably one of the easiest birds to identify, if not by their bold maneuvers to protect their territory, then certainly by their characteristic song. In fact, their scientific name Mimus polyglottos is based entirely on their vocal natures: “mimus” is Latin for mimic and “polyglo...

Are Viruses Alive?

Virus webimg   Illustration: Nicole Elmer Viruses are remarkably diverse. Some have RNA genomes, some have DNA genomes. Others have single-stranded genomes, and some have double-stranded genomes. But within this diversity, they still have common features. They are tiny, with a diameter less than 200 nanometers, hundreds of times smaller than mos...

Trees of BFL: Spanish Oak

SpanishOak Photos: Larry Gilbert At Brackenridge Field Lab, the Spanish Oaks (Quercus buckleyi) is found mainly in the old pasture zone. This tree is sometimes also called “Texas red oak” or “Buckley’s oak.” The tree is native to Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. It grows on average between 30 to 50 feet tall. The largest known species grows right here in...
Two Georges and a Field Lab That Almost Wasn't

Two Georges and a Field Lab That Almost Wasn't

The Brackenridge Field Lab is one of the most coveted resources of the life sciences at UT. Only three miles from campus, BFL is an 82-acre biological research site that is part of a nearly 400-acre land tract. With a rich array of plant, insect, and animal diversity so close to campus, BFL is both an invaluable teaching and research tool. However,...
Moth Threatens Prickly Pear Cactus

Moth Threatens Prickly Pear Cactus

   Moth damage to Prickly Pear (Photo: Larry Gilbert) Despite its iconic association with the Southwest, many people may not love Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia). However, various species of Opuntia are extremely important plants to most ecosystems in Texas and Mexico. They produce a huge quantity of fruits that are a critica...
Understanding Invasive Fire Ant Biology

Understanding Invasive Fire Ant Biology

    Click on image to play video.   Watch how UT researchers test fire ants to predict how pesty a population is likely to become. Learn more by watching this video.  
The Trees of BFL: Pecans (Carya illinoiensis)

The Trees of BFL: Pecans (Carya illinoiensis)

   One of the burried pecans.  Pecan trees (Carya illinoiensis) generally live along river bottom forest, or in places with irrigation systems. You may even have one or two growing in your yard. At Brackenridge Field Lab, the pecans here have a unique relationship with the history of the field lab. In this article “The Dam that ...
One Plant of Thousands

One Plant of Thousands

 The Darwin specimen. (Click on image for larger view) International Darwin Day is observed on February 12, the day Charles Darwin was born. Darwin Day asks people to “reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin.” In 1831, when he was...