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Biodiversity Blog

 
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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...
UT Spring Bee Competition

UT Spring Bee Competition

 USDA Photo by Jack Dykinga We have a winner! Katie Elston is the winner of the UT Spring Bee competition. This competition was for submitting the first Travis County mason bee of 2021 to win a copy of the book “The Bees In Your Backyard”! Rationale: One measure of our changing climate is the shifting dates of emergence of our earliest spri...
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...

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, ...

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 ...
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 new Stengl-Wyer Endowment, the Stengl Wyer Postdoctoral Scholars Program provides up to three years of indepe...
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...
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...
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...
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 ...

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...