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From the College of Natural Sciences
Unlocking Secrets of Some of the World’s Smallest Viruses

Unlocking Secrets of Some of the World’s Smallest Viruses

A typical flu virus is so small that a thousand of them could fit in the width of a human hair.

Study on Climate Change Impacts on Plants Could Lead to Better Conservation Strategies

Study on Climate Change Impacts on Plants Could Lead to Better Conservation Strategies

The three-year study focused on Coyote Ridge, a grassland near San Jose, California, which has several endemic plant species. Credit: Erika Zavaleta/University of California, Santa Cruz.

The loss of plant species that are especially vulnerable to climate change might lead to bigger problems than previous studies have suggested, according to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If confirmed, the findings can help inform conservation strategies and lead to more accurate predictions about what ecosystems will look like in the future.

Biologist Awarded Radcliffe and Guggenheim Fellowships

Biologist Awarded Radcliffe and Guggenheim Fellowships

Steven Phelps, a professor of integrative biology and director of the Center for Brain, Behavior and Evolution at The University of Texas at Austin, has been awarded two prestigious fellowships in the same year related to his work on the biology of intimacy. He received both a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship and was named a 2021-2022 Radcliffe Fellow by the Harvard Radcliffe Institute.

Undetected Coronavirus Variant Was in at Least 15 Countries Before its Discovery

Undetected Coronavirus Variant Was in at Least 15 Countries Before its Discovery

Illustration: Jenna Luecke

A highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 variant was unknowingly spreading for months in the United States by October 2020, according to a new study from researchers with The University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. Scientists first discovered it in early December in the United Kingdom, where the highly contagious and more lethal variant is thought to have originated. The journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, which has published an early-release version of the study, provides evidence that the coronavirus variant B117 (501Y) had spread across the globe undetected for months when scientists discovered it.

Integrative Biology Professor Wins Early Career Award for Contributions to Ecology

Integrative Biology Professor Wins Early Career Award for Contributions to Ecology

Caroline Farrior, an assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, was elected as one of 10 Early Career Fellows for 2021 by the Ecological Society of America, an organization of professional ecologists.

Repeated Testing for COVID-19 is Vital, Economic and Public Health Analysis Shows

Repeated Testing for COVID-19 is Vital, Economic and Public Health Analysis Shows

As a new presidential administration takes steps to examine options to control the spread of COVID-19 through increased testing, epidemiologists at The University of Texas at Austin and other institutions have a new analysis that shows the value of having all people in the U.S. tested on a regular, rotating basis to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and the loss of life from COVID-19. The team's model is outlined in a paper published online today in The Lancet Public Health.

Key Switchgrass Genes Identified, Which Could Mean Better Biofuels Ahead

Key Switchgrass Genes Identified, Which Could Mean Better Biofuels Ahead

Biologists believe they are one step closer to a long-held goal of making a cheap, widely available plant a source for energy and fuel, meaning one of the next big weapons in the battle against climate change may be able to trace its roots to the side of a Texas highway.

New Tool Helps Parents and Educators Estimate COVID-19 Infection Numbers at Their School

New Tool Helps Parents and Educators Estimate COVID-19 Infection Numbers at Their School

With COVID-19 cases hitting new highs across the country, a new online tool can help families and school leaders estimate how many infected people are likely to show up at a school on a given day anywhere in the United States. The free, interactive dashboard was produced by The University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

Curbing COVID-19 Hospitalizations Requires Attention to Construction Workers

Curbing COVID-19 Hospitalizations Requires Attention to Construction Workers

Construction workers have a much higher risk of becoming hospitalized with the novel coronavirus than non-construction workers, according to a new study from researchers with The University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

Invasive Cactus Moth Likely to Spread and Destroy Native Prickly Pear

Invasive Cactus Moth Likely to Spread and Destroy Native Prickly Pear

The cactus moth has a wingspan of only about an inch, but this invasive insect has the potential to cause largescale agricultural and ecological devastation in Texas, according to the first study of cactus moths in Texas.

7 Emerging Scientific Leaders Among Recipients of Stengl-Wyer Research Support

7 Emerging Scientific Leaders Among Recipients of Stengl-Wyer Research Support

The College of Natural Sciences has recently recruited and supported top leaders among a new generation of scientists through the Stengl-Wyer Endowment – the largest endowment in the college's history. These postdoctoral scholars and graduate students are working on research projects that will promote a deeper understanding of climate change, protect natural habitats and maintain biodiversity in Texas and beyond.

To Protect Nature’s Benefits, Researchers Recommend More Focus on People

To Protect Nature’s Benefits, Researchers Recommend More Focus on People

People benefit from ecosystems in different ways; new research focuses on understanding that diversity to protect nature’s benefits.

​To calculate the true value of a forest, we need to know how people benefit from it, according to new research published in Nature Sustainability. A healthy forest holds a treasure trove of benefits for people — it can filter water for downstream communities, supply timber for building, and provide a place for people to connect with nature. But a forest — or any other ecosystem — won't necessarily provide the same things to everyone.

Two Pesticides Approved for Use in U.S. Found to Harm Bees

Two Pesticides Approved for Use in U.S. Found to Harm Bees

A previously banned insecticide, which was approved for agricultural use last year in the United States, is harmful for bees and other beneficial insects that are crucial for agriculture, and a second pesticide in widespread use also harms these insects. That is according to a new analysis from researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.

New Dashboards Launched to Track COVID-19 Across Texas Communities

New Dashboards Launched to Track COVID-19 Across Texas Communities

The University of Texas at Austin's COVID-19 Modeling Consortium has launched a new online dashboard to track the spread and impact of the virus, including in hospitals across Texas, with detailed information for 22 areas.

Hunting for a Better Biofuel Is Scope of New UT Austin-Led Research

Hunting for a Better Biofuel Is Scope of New UT Austin-Led Research

Switchgrass field experiments by the Juenger lab and partners in Michigan. Credit: Robert Goodwin, Michigan State University.

A team of scientists from nine universities and research facilities hope to find out how to make switchgrass — a fast-growing perennial native to the U.S. — into a biofuel powerhouse.