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Biodiversity Blog

 
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March of the Central Texas Butterflies

March of the Central Texas Butterflies

  Butterflies never fail to fascinate young and old alike. They are the subject of countless paintings, poems, and for Professor James Glavan's (Head of the Costume Technology program in the Department of Theatre and Dance) class, Fabric Dyeing and Painting, they were the focus of an ambitious costume building project this spring semester. ...
A Northern Cardinal in North Austin

A Northern Cardinal in North Austin

Male cardinal. (Photo: Gary Leavens - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license) I awoke on a Sunday morning last week, started the coffee, then opened the curtains to my backyard. My usual habit, but on this Sunday, I had the surprise of seeing a female Northern Cardinal duck into the tight weave of a climbing rose about seve...
Meet Stengl-Wyer Scholar: Ummat Somjee

Meet Stengl-Wyer Scholar: Ummat Somjee

Ummat Somjee is one of our 2021 Stengl-Wyer Scholars and is researching the evolution of exaggerated sexually-selected traits in animals. His research aims to understand how the energetic costs underlying these exaggerated traits may shape their evolution. As part of the Stengl Wyer Endowment, the Stengl Wyer Postdoctoral Scholars Program prov...
It's Raining Fish! The Ichthyology Collection Now Holds Rare Fish Rain Specimens

It's Raining Fish! The Ichthyology Collection Now Holds Rare Fish Rain Specimens

 Illustration: Nicole Elmer by Adam Cohen (Collection Manager, Ichthyology Collection), Melissa Casarez (Research Associate/Ichthyologist, Ichthyology Collection), and Dean Hendrickson (Curator, Ichthyology Collection) Animals not capable of flight, such as fish, frogs, and snakes, occasionally fall from the sky. Throughout history such eve...

Meet Stengl-Wyer Fellow: Nikunj Goel

Goel 1Nikunj modeling source-sink dynamics at range limits. Nikunj is one of our 2021 Stengl-Wyer Fellows. He is a theoretical biogeographer working in the lab of Dr. Tim Keitt at the Department of Integrative Biology. He is broadly interested in understanding how dispersal generates and maintains biodiversity. As a Stengl-Wyer Fellow, he is buil...

Science Under the Stars is back with new hybrid format

SUS Feb2022The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed our lives. One thing that will probably never go away, for better or for worse, are remote meetings and online classes. But as some events begin to open up, the online formats are offering both in-person and remote experiences, thus opening access to audiences who could not have seen them otherwise. One of ...
Pets as Invasive Species: Cats

Pets as Invasive Species: Cats

 Cute but deadly. Author's cat, Hazel, poses in the sun. It’s not often an invasive species is crowned as ruler of the internet. That title goes to cats. From chatrooms with “Meowspeak,” to I Can Haz Cheezeburger, to Grumpy Cat (R.I.P), it’s funny to imagine fire ants or zebra mussels ever getting adorable memes made about them. With cats, ...
UT Spring 2022 Bee Competition

UT Spring 2022 Bee Competition

 USDA Photo by Jack Dykinga The winner of this year's contest is Paige Durant! Click here to learn how she found this season's bees. Bring us the first Travis County mason bee of 2022, you’ll win a native Osmia bee house! Rationale: One measure of our changing climate is the shifting dates of emergence of our earliest spring flowers and in...
Meet Stengl-Wyer Fellow: David Ledesma

Meet Stengl-Wyer Fellow: David Ledesma

David Ledesma is one of our 2021 Stengl-Wyer Fellows. With his advisor Dr. Melissa Kemp, he studies the responses of herpetofauna (non-avian reptiles and amphibians) to environmental changes, and the long-term responses of herpetofauna over the last 21,000 years. As part of the Stengl Wyer Endowment, the Stengl Wyer Fellows Program supports ye...
What We Talk About When We Talk About Snakes

What We Talk About When We Talk About Snakes

What comes to mind when you imagine a snake? A rattler hissing and shaking its tail, ready to strike? A coral snake and the common identification rhyme “Red touches black, venom lack. Red touches yellow, kill a fellow”? Do you coil (pun intended) in fear? You’re not alone. Fear of snakes ranks in the top phobias for adults. This fear is called “oph...
Stengl-Wyer REU Program: supporting undergraduates in the natural sciences

Stengl-Wyer REU Program: supporting undergraduates in the natural sciences

 Jenifer Dubon (left) and Jaylin Knight (right) The Stengl-Wyer Endowment is the largest endowment in the history of the College of Natural Sciences. It supports UT Austin’s programming in ecology and biological research, with a focus on the study of the diversity of life and interactions between living things and their natural environments...
Eel. It's what's for (Thanksgiving) dinner.

Eel. It's what's for (Thanksgiving) dinner.

 Illustration: Nicole Elmer Ah, Thanksgiving. We visit family, for better or for worse, slave for hours in the kitchen, gorge ourselves on football, and gather around a table to feast on a big fat roasted...eel? Historians agree that the very first Thanksgiving dinners had not only the ubiquitous turkey, but other fowl, venison, and yes, ee...

All things creepy: parasitism, pt 5, crypt keepers

Euderus setThe crypt keeper (Photo from paper by Scott P. Egan, Kelly L. Weinersmith, Sean Liu, Ryan D. Ridenbaugh, Y. Miles Zhang, Andrew A. Forbes. Creative Commons.) Talk about a nightmare of a roommate. Imagine yourself to be a larvae of gall wasp, the species Bassettia pallida more specifically. You are inside the gall of an oak tree, a gall that...

All things creepy: parasitism pt 4, mite pockets

MiteMeetsLizard Photos: Wilfredor (iguana) and Alan R Walker (mite)- Creative Commons Pockets are pretty cool things. We put our belongings in them, warm our hands on cold days in them. Some lizards have them too, but they aren’t storing cell phones in them. Chiggers live in these pockets, although sometimes a tick finds its way in there too. Chiggers are...
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...
Pets as Invasive Species: Fish Gone Wild

Pets as Invasive Species: Fish Gone Wild

by Nicole Elmer and Adam Cohen, Ichthyology Collection Manager  Illustration: Nicole Elmer Pet fish may not purr and curl up in your lap or bark when they see you, but because of their colors, anatomy, and behaviors they can be interesting and beautiful to observe in their aquariums or backyard ponds. But sometimes their owners decide...

Through the Herbarium Cabinet: a Student View of the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center

Sarah 2 webby Sarah Hunter This summer, through the ongoing haze of the COVID-19 global pandemic, I had the unique opportunity to explore the inner workings of the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center at UT. The Herbarium Curation Summer Graduate Fellowship program allowed me three months of hands-on training in the varied aspects of herbarium curat...