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From the College of Natural Sciences
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.

Tiny Insects Provide Inspiration for New Biomaterials

Tiny Insects Provide Inspiration for New Biomaterials

Oncometopia hamiltoni leafhopper insect. Photo by Alex Wild, used with permission.

They may be tiny, but leafhoppers have a super power: they secrete a substance that makes their bodies water-repellant and anti-reflective, which may help them blend in with their surroundings and escape surface tension. Symbiotic bacteria living in the leafhoppers appear to assist in producing the substance and its soccer-ball-shaped nanostructures called brochosomes, but the process is something of a mystery.

Early Spread of COVID-19 Appears Far Greater Than Initially Reported

Early Spread of COVID-19 Appears Far Greater Than Initially Reported

Patients with undiagnosed flu symptoms who actually had COVID-19 last winter were among thousands of undetected early cases of the disease at the beginning of this year. In a new paper in The Lancet's open-access journal EClinicalMedicine, epidemiological researchers from The University of Texas at Austin estimated COVID-19 to be far more widespread in Wuhan, China, and Seattle, Washington, weeks ahead of lockdown measures in each city.

New Tool to Guide Decisions on Social Distancing Uses Hospital Data and Emphasizes Protecting the Vulnerable

New Tool to Guide Decisions on Social Distancing Uses Hospital Data and Emphasizes Protecting the Vulnerable

With communities throughout the United States combating surges in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Northwestern University have created a framework that helps policymakers determine which data to track and when to take action to protect their communities. The model specifies a series of trigger points to help local entities know when to tighten social distancing measures to prevent hospitals from being overrun by virus patients. The method also aims to minimize the economic impact to communities by suggesting the earliest times for safely relaxing restrictions.

Dominant Individuals are the Least Influential, Study Finds

Dominant Individuals are the Least Influential, Study Finds

A new study of cichlid fish behavior shows that dominant individuals can influence a group through force, but passive individuals are far better at bringing a group to consensus. Photo credit: The Jordan Lab, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior.

Being the strongest, biggest and most aggressive individual in a group might make you dominant, but it doesn't mean you make all the decisions.

Power of DNA to Store Information Gets an Upgrade

Power of DNA to Store Information Gets an Upgrade

A team of interdisciplinary researchers has discovered a new technique to store information in DNA – in this case "The Wizard of Oz," translated into Esperanto – with unprecedented accuracy and efficiency. The technique harnesses the information-storage capacity of intertwined strands of DNA to encode and retrieve information in a way that is both durable and compact. The technique is described in a paper in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.