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Biodiversity Blog

 

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: Cliff Chirping Frog

Eleutherodactylus Syrrhophus marnockii TJD 963 web   Photo: Tom Devitt The Cliff Chirping Frog is an elusive creature. Nocturnal and about the size of a quarter, they are more easily heard than seen. There are actually three species of Chirping Frog in the genus Eleutherodactylus in Central Texas. There is Eleutherodactylus marnockii. They are native and their range is central ...

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...

Part 1: Microsporidia Help BFL Researchers Control Invasive Crazy Ants

Crazy ants   Photo: Alex Wild  In 2016, staff at Estero Llano Grande State Park knew something wrong. During night tours for visitors, they noticed many of the normally-seen species like scorpions were gone. They also had not seen many snakes or lizards common to the area. Then came sightings of blinded rabbits. Turns out that this state ...

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...
The Texas Trout

The Texas Trout

Today the only member of the family Salmonidae (trout, salmon and their relatives) that occurs in Texas is the non-native Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss. That species is widely stocked around the state and there is one permanent population in McKittrick Creek, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, where it was introduced in the early 1900s. However...

Trout of Mexico's Sierra Madre

Picture1   Young Dean, reading to go fishing with dad... Like many others I'm sure, I found that working from home facilitated catching up on housecleaning, etc. Picking away at the long-standing task of re-housing old family photos, I came across one of me heading out trout fishing with my Dad.  It got me reflecting on what a big role ...
Nest building isn't just for the birds

Nest building isn't just for the birds

by Laurel Treviño, Outreach Coordinator for the Jha lab Have you ever wondered what insect carves out the leaf edges on your garden plants? If the leaves look like this cut-leaf daisy, American beautyberry, or rock rose, you may have leafcutter bees in your garden. Several native bees have made nests in my native pollinator garden this May; I spott...

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...

PART 2: Life in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean

pic6By Ryan Rash    Rainbow after a light rain with great frigatebirds and boobies flying overhead. In my previous post, I compared our life in quarantine now to what I experienced on Johnston Atoll, out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where I worked on an invasive species control project through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ...

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,...

PART 1: Reflections on Isolation from the Middle of the Pacific Ocean

pic2by Ryan Rash   View of Johnston as we were first arriving.  I was a volunteer and then research assistant at the Biodiversity Center’s Ichthyology Collection for a couple years, but moved to the Central Pacific to work and live for 6 months on Johnston Atoll, a one-square-mile island National Wildlife Refuge with a total human pop...

BACK YARD BIODIVERSITY: Fireflies

FF1   Photo: Alex Wild Austin sits at the far southwestern corner of the range of the Eastern Firefly (Photinus pyralis), the species that gives eastern landscapes the characteristic dusk light show in early summer. This insect is common in neighborhoods around Austin, with large flights in April, May, and June and a smaller emergence w...

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...