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From the College of Natural Sciences
Esther is an Austin native who spent more than 12 years as a newspaper journalist with publications like the Austin American-Statesman and the Charlotte Observer. When she's not writing, she likes to travel, read and knit. 
A Surprising Effect of Texas Drought: Changes to the Marine Food Web

A Surprising Effect of Texas Drought: Changes to the Marine Food Web

When Texas' worst drought on record hit the state between 2011 and 2015, it did more than dry up rivers and lakes. It changed the chemical composition of fish eggs, which revealed bigger changes to the marine life in Aransas Bay.

Success of Conservation Efforts for Important Caribbean Reef Fish Hinges on Climate Change

Success of Conservation Efforts for Important Caribbean Reef Fish Hinges on Climate Change

Photo credit: Alfredo Barroso

For more than 20 years, conservationists have been working to protect one of the most recognizable reef fish in the Caribbean, the endangered and iconic Nassau grouper, and thanks to those efforts, populations of this critical reef fish have stabilized in some areas. But in a new paper, published in the journal Diversity and Distributions, marine scientists said climate change might severely hinder those efforts by the end of this century.

In Science, Facility Plans Determine Staying Ahead of the Technological Curve

In Science, Facility Plans Determine Staying Ahead of the Technological Curve

Weeks after most students have left UT Austin's campus for the summer, the heart of the Forty Acres is anything but quiet. The steady beeping of a forklift mixes with the drone of power tools and the occasional boom of construction debris being dropped out a third-floor window and into a skiff.

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New Nerve Gas Detector Built with Legos and a Smartphone

New Nerve Gas Detector Built with Legos and a Smartphone

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have designed a way to sense dangerous chemicals using, in part, a simple rig consisting of a smartphone and a box made from Lego bricks, which could help first responders and scientists in the field identify deadly and difficult-to-detect nerve agents such as VX and sarin. The new methodology described in a paper published Wednesday in the open-access journal ACS Central Science combines a chemical sensor with photography to detect and identify different nerve agents — odorless, tasteless chemical weapons that can cause severe illness and death, sometimes within minutes.

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.

Mostly Science or Mostly Fiction? We Put these 2018 Summer Movies to the Test

Mostly Science or Mostly Fiction? We Put these 2018 Summer Movies to the Test

Summer blockbuster season is here, and an impressive crop of films feature science concepts. We sat down with scientists at the University of Texas at Austin to find out how close to reality the movie magic really is. So, grab some popcorn as we dust off our Science Truth Detector and see which 2018 films offer up sound science this summer.

Planet Probes, All the Rage Now, Have Deep Roots at UT Austin

Planet Probes, All the Rage Now, Have Deep Roots at UT Austin

Photo courtesy of NASA.

Update: In October 2019, exoplanet research by scientists at Princeton and the University of Geneva was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Read on to learn about the UT connection to pioneering the search for planets beyond our solar system.

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.

Fifty Years after Sci-Fi’s “2001,” Rethinking Our Relationship with AI

Fifty Years after Sci-Fi’s “2001,” Rethinking Our Relationship with AI

Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of "2001: A Space Odyssey." The groundbreaking science-fiction film earned an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and appears on several of the American Film Institute's Top 100 lists. But what many remember best about the movie is HAL 9000, the murderous artificial intelligence aboard the spaceship that has been ranked cinema's 13th best villain.

Using Chosen Names Reduces Odds of Depression and Suicide in Transgender Youths

Using Chosen Names Reduces Odds of Depression and Suicide in Transgender Youths

Illustration by: Tjaša Žurga Žabkar

In one of the largest and most diverse studies of transgender youths to date, researchers led by a team at The University of Texas at Austin have found that when transgender youths are allowed to use their chosen name in places such as work, school and at home, their risk of depression and suicide drops.