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From the College of Natural Sciences
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.

DNA Barcodes That Reliably Work: A Game-Changer for Biomedical Research

DNA Barcodes That Reliably Work: A Game-Changer for Biomedical Research

This illustration shows the most common structure of DNA found in a cell, called B-DNA. Credit: Richard Wheeler (Zephyris). Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

In the same way that barcodes on your groceries help stores know what's in your cart, DNA barcodes help biologists attach genetic labels to biological molecules to do their own tracking during research, including of how a cancerous tumor evolves, how organs develop or which drug candidates actually work. Unfortunately with current methods, many DNA barcodes have a reliability problem much worse than your corner grocer's. They contain errors about 10 percent of the time, making interpreting data tricky and limiting the kinds of experiments that can be reliably done.

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.

Great Barrier Reef Corals Can Survive Global Warming for Another Century

Great Barrier Reef Corals Can Survive Global Warming for Another Century

The red coral in the middle of this image is a staghorn coral, or A. millepora. Photo taken near Palau. Photo credit: Mikhail Matz, University of Texas at Austin.

Using genetic samples and computer simulations, evolutionary biologists have made a glass-half-full forecast: Corals in the Great Barrier Reef have enough genetic variation to adapt to and survive rising ocean temperatures for at least another century, or more than 50 years longer than previous estimates have suggested.

5 Things Scientists Say to Try in Your Yard This Spring

5 Things Scientists Say to Try in Your Yard This Spring

With spring gardening season in full swing, Natural Sciences researchers have suggestions for the perfect vegetable garden, flower bed, lawn or landscape. In fact, scientists with the University of Texas at Austin can help you do more than have a great looking and productive yard: they've got tips that would help the local environment and maybe even the gardeners themselves.

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.

Paul Goldbart Appointed Dean of UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences

Paul Goldbart Appointed Dean of UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences

Paul Goldbart

The University of Texas at Austin has named Paul Goldbart the next dean of the College of Natural Sciences. His appointment will begin Aug. 1, and he will hold the Robert E. Boyer Chair in Natural Sciences.

Proposed Border Wall Will Harm Texas Plants and Animals, Scientists Say

Proposed Border Wall Will Harm Texas Plants and Animals, Scientists Say

Photo credit: Andy Morffew

In the latest peer-reviewed publication on the potential impacts of a border wall on plants and animals, conservation biologists, led by a pair of scientists from The University of Texas at Austin, say that border walls threaten to harm endangered Texas plants and animals and cause trouble for the region's growing ecotourism industry.

A Century After 1918 Flu, A Virus that Still Surprises

A Century After 1918 Flu, A Virus that Still Surprises

This month marks the centennial of the first case of one of the world's deadliest flu outbreaks, which was reported on a Kansas army base. It is estimated that the 1918 flu infected 500 million people around the world and killed 50-100 million. With the 100th anniversary, we sat down with graduate student Spencer Fox, who studies the flu virus and flu pandemics.


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.