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From the College of Natural Sciences
Visualizing Science 2018: Beauty and Inspiration in College Research

Visualizing Science 2018: Beauty and Inspiration in College Research

Over the last six years, faculty, staff and students from across the College of Natural Sciences have submitted hundreds of images from their scholarly research for our annual Visualizing Science competition, and these images have been viewed by tens of thousands of people. The submitted images, often beautiful and stunning, are the ones that spoke to their creators, inspiring and informing them as they followed their scientific passions.

Fish’s Use of Electricity Might Shed Light on Human Illnesses

Fish’s Use of Electricity Might Shed Light on Human Illnesses

Brienomyrus brachyistius, commonly known as the baby whale.

Deep in the night in muddy African rivers, a fish uses electrical charges to sense the world around it and communicate with other members of its species. Signaling in electrical spurts that last only a few tenths of a thousandth of a second allows the fish to navigate without letting predators know it is there. Now scientists have found that the evolutionary trick these fish use to make such brief discharges could provide new insights, with a bearing on treatments for diseases such as epilepsy.

Leafcutter Ants' Success Due to More Than Crop Selection

Leafcutter Ants' Success Due to More Than Crop Selection

A rare peak inside the garden of a leafcutter ant colony reveals the queen (center-left), brood, and an extensive matrix of fungal hyphae that form both the nest structure and the insects' exclusive diet. Public domain image by Alex Wild, for the University of Texas at Austin's "Insects Unlocked" project.

A complex genetic analysis has biologists re-evaluating some long-held beliefs about the way societies evolved following the invention of agriculture—by six-legged farmers.

When Science Communication Doesn’t Get Through (Audio)

When Science Communication Doesn’t Get Through (Audio)

Climate change, vaccinations, evolution. Scientists sometimes struggle to get their message across to non-scientists. On the latest episode of the Point of Discovery podcast, what communications research can teach us about why science communication sometimes backfires, and what scientists can do about it.

Science Programs at UT Austin in Top 10 in U.S. News Ranking of Graduate Schools

Science Programs at UT Austin in Top 10 in U.S. News Ranking of Graduate Schools

Kasie Raymann. Photo by Vivian Abagiu.

The University of Texas at Austin is one of the public universities with the most top-ranked schools and academic programs in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report's 2019 edition of "Best Graduate Schools," released this morning. The university has five programs across campus ranked No. 1 and 49 schools and specialties ranked among the nation's top 10.

World-renowned UT Animal Behaviorist Publishes New Book

World-renowned UT Animal Behaviorist Publishes New Book

Mike Ryan knows a lot about how circumstances can lead to a change of perspective. Take, for example, the tiny túngara frog, which lives in the jungles of Panama. He may not seem like much, with his mottled brown skin covered in bumps and whiney song. But put this little amphibian at the center of decades of research, and it turns out he can open up a world of discovery, both for Ryan and for dozens of scientists he's helped to train over the years, with new insights into how animals become beautiful – at least to each other. These lessons may also help humans better understand how our own ideas of beauty correspond with those in the animal kingdom.

Gut Microbiome Influenced Heavily by Social Circles in Lemurs, UT Study Says

Gut Microbiome Influenced Heavily by Social Circles in Lemurs, UT Study Says

Social group membership is the most important factor influencing the composition of a lemur's gut microbiome, according to research at The University of Texas at Austin.

Project Explores Fate of Coral Reefs and Related Life

Project Explores Fate of Coral Reefs and Related Life

An international team of coral experts, including Misha Matz, an associate professor of integrative biology at The University of Texas at Austin, have published a set of urgent research recommendations, related to the ability of coral to respond to rapid environmental change caused by climate change.

Periodic Table of Ecological Niches Could Aid in Predicting Effects of Climate Change

Periodic Table of Ecological Niches Could Aid in Predicting Effects of Climate Change

A Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus) in the reptile house at Alice Springs Desert Park, Alice Springs, Australia. Credit: Stu’s Images. Used via a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

A group of ecologists has started creating a periodic table of ecological niches similar to chemistry's periodic table. And just as chemists have used their periodic table as a point of reference to understand relationships among elements, the emerging table for ecologists shows relationships over time among animals, plants and their environments — acting as a critical resource for scientists seeking to understand how a warming climate may be spurring changes in species around the globe.

Ancient Microbes Folded their DNA Similarly to Modern Life Forms

Ancient Microbes Folded their DNA Similarly to Modern Life Forms

Archaea wrap their DNA (yellow) around proteins called histones (blue). The wrapped structure bears an uncanny resemblance to the eukaryotic nucleosome, a bundle of eight histone proteins with DNA spooled around it. But unlike eukaryotes, archaea wind their DNA around just one histone protein, and form a long, twisting structure called a superhelix. Credit: Francesca Mattiroli

As life evolved on Earth, from simple one-celled microbes to complex plants, animals and humans, their DNA grew. And that created a problem: how do you pack more and more DNA into roughly the same-sized cellular compartment? Life's solution: fold it up into a ball. Reporting in the August 10 edition of the journal Science, researchers have discovered that microbes called archaea started folding their DNA in a way very similar to that of modern plants and animals, long before complex life evolved.