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Biodiversity Blog

 
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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...

Austin Spring Insects: Crane Flies

Picture1   A female Tipula crane fly in an Austin garden Spring continues to roll through Austin, paying no heed to our human worries of viruses and lockdowns. Rains fall, trees leaf out, bluebonnets speckle the roadsides, and crane flies flutter clumsily across our lawns. Crane flies? Few insects are as strongly evocative of the Texan sprin...

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 ...

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...

Invasives make a splash at the Creek Show

creekby Joe Matza, Texas Applied Arts Creek Monster Habitat student Well, Halloween is officially over, and with that comes the official start of the holiday season. While the holidays ramp up, and the weather cools down, there are some yearly occurrences happening throughout Austin that are not to be missed. One such event is the Waterloo Greenways Cre...

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 ...

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...

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...

Playing With Fire: Ant-Agonists

ants  CLICK ON IMAGE TO PLAY VIDEO. Biodiversity Collections, specifically the Entomology Collection team, are collaborating with researchers from UT's Brackenridge Field Laboratory, University of Georgia, and more to produce a series of SciComm videos that aim to expose people to the decades of research that have gone into what we know abo...

Announcing the annual Focus on Biology science imaging contest

Focust 2019 banner    The Biodiversity Center and the Department of Integrative Biology is pleased to announce the annual Focus on Biology science imaging contest! Focus on Biology celebrates visual explorations of our research in the form of photographs, micrographs, figures, and illustrations. Contest winners and honorable mentions will be printed ...

Fall Colors at the Brackenridge Field Lab

BFL Flame Sumac Rhus lanceolata webFall is here in Central Texas, announcing its arrival through color. This time of seasonal change is a particularly vibrant time at Brackenridge Field Lab. Splashes of vivid yellow and red appear when Flame Sumac, Spanish Oak and Cedar Elm trees prepare to shed their leaves. But why do trees do this?  These new hues arise as trees begin breaki...

Playing With Fire

Ants Click on image to play video. Biodiversity Collections, specifically the Entomology Collection team, are collaborating with researchers from UT's Brackenridge Field Laboratory, University of Georgia, and more to produce a series of SciComm videos that aim to expose people to the decades of research that have gone into what we know about o...

Biodiversity Center Sponsors Freshman Research Initiative Course

IMG 3677   Biodiversity Discovery FRI Students Christiana Peek, Evan Samsky, Hannah Gilbreath, Thomas Johnston and Ari Nehrbass prepare to sample vegetation at BFL (Photo: Alejandro Santillana) By Nicole Elmer and Dr. Susan Devitt The Freshman Research Initiative is a pioneering program allowing first-year students chances for hands-on resea...

Fire Ants and their Phorid Fly Foes: Brackenridge Field Lab and Biodiversity Collections Engage Visitors at UT Explore 2018

 Rob Plowes, Research Scientist at BFL, speaks with a young student
 Rob Plowes, Research Scientist at BFL, speaks with a young student (Photo courtesy Alejandro Santillana Ferna)

UT Explore was held on Saturday March 3rd, drawing a large crowd of families, students, and teachers. The annual event seeks to encourage community interest in research and higher education, and the important impact UT has on Austin and the world at large.

The Terrifying Science Behind Floating Fire Ant Colonies

The Terrifying Science Behind Floating Fire Ant Colonies

Hurricane Harvey has revealed its magnitude through devastating floods and damages, and now it has introduced another scourge -- giant clusters of floating fire ants.  UT researchers Alex Wild and Larry Gilbert were featured in the New York Times and Washington Post, among other outlets, sharing the science behi...
New Freshman Research Stream on Fish Behavior

New Freshman Research Stream on Fish Behavior

One of the newest streams in the Freshman Research Initiative is in the lab of BFL-affiliated scientist Molly Cummings. Undergraduate researchers will explore Fish Behavior and work to understand (1) whether learning capabilities vary predictably between species with different types of social interactions; and (2) if there is a relationship be...