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Biodiversity Blog

 
Nicole handles the communications for the Biodiversity Center.

The Dam that Broke: Some Prehistory that Helps Explains How BFL Came to Exist

PowerHouseAndDamVia a talk given by Dr. Larry Gilbert at BFL, September 2019 Brackenridge Field Laboratory is an 82 acre biological research site that is part of a nearly 400 acre land tract. It’s a site of rich biodiversity and an excellent area of research and outreach. Before it became the BFL, however, it was once something quite different with a very differen...

The Texas Eight: Love ‘Em, Hate ‘Em, or Drink ‘Em

Juniperus deppeana alligator juniperwebTexas has eight species of juniper native to the state. Some prevent slope erosion, some play havoc with allergies, and some go into a gin made by Integrative Biology professor, Dr. Molly Cummings. Dr. Cummings uses berries from two Texas junipers for two different gins made by WildGins Co., a gin company headquartered in Austin and run by Cummings...

Texas Alligator Lizard

Tx infernalis cropped     Photo: Dr. Eric Pianka   The Texas Alligator Lizard (Gerrhonotus infernalis) is the largest lizard with limbs in Texas, exceeded in length only by Slender Glass Lizards, which are legless. It is also one of the largest alligator lizards in the world. Adults are about 16”-18” in length and endemic to the central...

CAMPUS BIODIVERSITY: Pigeons

19786421550 79acb30c66 b   Photo by Jaime Silva (via Flickr) Pigeons are so ubiquitous, searching our sidewalks and streets for anything edible, perched overhead on powerlines and building ledges, we don’t really give them much thought. In fact, pigeons get a pretty bad rap sometimes, are written off as nothing more than “rats with wings.” However, they are...

New wasp species named after UT Entomologist

alexwildiGlyptapanteles alexwildi is one of 136 new tropical wasp species that have been recently discovered. This species is named after Entomologist Alex Wild, curator of Entomology in the Biodiversity Center. Glyptapanteles is a genus of small, often inconspicuous parasitoid wasps containing hundreds of species found worldwide. The genus is&nbs...

The Trees of BFL: Chinaberry (Melia azedarach)

Screen Shot 2019 09 04 at 08.59.00  The Chinaberry tree actually has many common names, some being bead-tree, Persian lilac, and Pride of India. This is a fast-growing deciduous tree that is part of the mahogany family and native to Southeastern China. It reaches 30 to 50 feet in height. The flowers are fragrant, small, and pink to light purple in color. The fruit is about ...

Creatures of Halloween: Scorpionfly (Panorpa nuptialis)

Panorpa nuptialis P1330899a   By xpda - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64833118 Donning the colors of Halloween, this is the Scorpionfly (Panorpa nuptialis). It’s a common insect in Texas in wooded areas and ravines with dense vegetation. They are up to an inch long. Their wings are orange with defined angulate black ba...

CAMPUS BIODIVERSITY: Batty about Bats!

Tadarida head for website   Mexican free-tailed bat (Photo: Tigga Kingston) It’s October. The weather cools. People plan their Halloween costumes. Images of ghosts, vampires and other monsters start to fill our neighbors’ lawns or grocery store candy isles. Without a doubt, bats will be part of this montage, but do they deserve the association with scar...
Meet Amber Horning!

Meet Amber Horning!

  Amber Horning is our new Assistant Curator in the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center. Amber comes from the University of Mississippi, and took some time out of her busy day to tell us a little about herself. Tell us where you came from before UT, and what you studied. This past May, I received my Master’s of Science from the Universi...

Insects and Art

IMG 0395 red  Pencils in hand, erasers in reach, students huddle over cases of butterflies and beetles. The room is quiet, save for the “scratch scratch” of the pencil lead, the occasional rub of an eraser on paper. This is a scene from “Core II: Drawing,” a class in the First-Year Core Program at the Department of Art and Art History. On September 12t...

Billie L. Turner Plant Resource Center Awarded Digitization Grant

47495452601 9886cd63b1 oThe National Science Foundation recently awarded the Billie L. Turner Plant Resource Center a new grant for approximately $817,000. The grant extends over four years to complete the digitization of more than 500,000 herbarium specimens collected in the states of Texas and Oklahoma and housed in the herbaria, as well as those of 10 partner instituti...

The Trees of BFL: Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)

Screen Shot 2019 09 04 at 08.58.36    The sugar hackberry or sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) is a very common tree species at Brackenridge Field Lab. The tree has distinctive warty, gray bark, sometimes turning tan in very old individuals. The leaves have asymmetrical bases, are tapered with sharply pointed tips, and smooth or toothed margins. These trees grow quite ta...

CAMPUS BIODIVERSITY: Gulf Coast Toad (Bufo valliceps)

Incilius nebulifer DRD 5406 1     Bufo valliceps. (Photo: Drew Davis)   While it might be easy to assume we don’t have toads on campus, the Gulf Coast Toad (Bufo valliceps) is one species that does live here. Waller Creek is a one place to see them, in addition to planters where they hide, or on sidewalks at twilight to consume the insects that are att...

CAMPUS BIODIVERSITY: Raccoons (Procyon lotor)

Raccoon Procyon lotor CDWR reduced   Photo: California Department of Water Resources (Wikimedia commons) With their ringed tails and black “masks,” raccoons (Procyon lotor) are easy to recognize. These curious and smart mammals are native to North America. Due to their extreme adaptability and opportunistic natures, they are also part of the urban wildlife on the UT ...

Revisiting Science History: John Edmonstone

guiana   1798 map of colony (from: Demerara & Essequibo) Great scientists don’t become great on their own. They have sources of support and inspiration from people who are often overlooked and uncredited for their contributions. One such individual almost lost to history is John Edmonstone, a freed slave who many historians feel was hu...

CAMPUS BIODIVERSITY: Red-eared sliders

IMG 2063   Male red-eared slider, posing. (Photo: Nicole Elmer) They’re out. Stacks of them. Sometimes piled on top of each other like bricks, feet extended, much to the delight of students and visitors to the UT turtle pond. These campus charmers are turtles commonly known as “red-eared sliders,” or Trachemys scripta elegans. The “red” come...

UT Professors Awarded Escher Prize in Germ Cell Exposures

Gore Crews   Dr. David Crews and Dr. Andrea Gore In late spring, UT professors David Crews and Andrea Gore were awarded as inaugural winners for the 2019 Escher Prizes in Germ Cell Exposure. Their recent studies receiving the honor demonstrate that exposure of rats in utero to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) impact fetal germ ce...

Flight of the Cockroach

Attaphila   The Atta roach in a fungus garden. (Photo: Alex Wild) A moonless springtime night at Brackenridge Field Lab. The sun will rise shortly. The Texas leaf-cutter ants (Atta texana) have started their nuptial flights as the winged virgin females and much smaller males fly about. Some of the queens are not alone in their journeys howeve...

Center Hosts Nature Photography Workshop

IMG 4124 2On May 18th and 19th, the Biodiversity Center hosted the Nature Photograhy Workshop at Stengl Lost Pines Biological Station. The workshop focused on everything from photography basics, to composition, lighting, and processing. About 40 miles outside of Austin, the location of Stengl was an ideal for photographers of nature as the field station comp...

CAMPUS BIODIVERSITY: Awesome Opossums

1100px Opossum 3   Virginia Opossum (Photo by Cody Pope) At night, the UT campus slows but never quite stops. Those out and about in the dark hours might witness some of the nocturnal creatures on campus, one being the only marsupial native to North America: the opossum. The opossum is of the order Didelphimorphia and is endemic to the Americas, the...