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From the College of Natural Sciences
Model Predicts Which Coral Reefs Will Better Adapt to Global Warming

Model Predicts Which Coral Reefs Will Better Adapt to Global Warming

Various staghorn corals in the Great Barrier Reef. Image credit: The Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey.

​Climate change is causing coral reefs around the world to decline. According to a new study in the journal Global Change Biology, reefs that receive more heat-tolerant coral larvae from warmer ocean regions will be more likely to adapt and survive than those that receive less. The discovery was made using a computer model created by University of Texas at Austin evolutionary biologist Mikhail Matz.

Long-Living Tropical Trees Play Outsized Role in Carbon Storage

Long-Living Tropical Trees Play Outsized Role in Carbon Storage

Irene del Carmen Torres Dominguez measures the diameter of a tree on Barro Colorado Island in Panama. Since 1982, more than 200,000 trees are measured every five years. (Photo by Christian Ziegler)

A group of trees that grow fast, live long lives and reproduce slowly account for the bulk of the biomass—and carbon storage—in some tropical rainforests, a team of scientists says in a paper published this week in the journal Science. The finding that these trees, called long-lived pioneers, play a much larger role in carbon storage than previously thought may have implications in efforts to preserve forests as a strategy to fight climate change.

Coronavirus Spreads Quickly and Sometimes Before People Have Symptoms, Study Finds

Coronavirus Spreads Quickly and Sometimes Before People Have Symptoms, Study Finds

Infectious disease researchers at The University of Texas at Austin studying the novel coronavirus were able to identify how quickly the virus can spread, a factor that may help public health officials in their efforts at containment. They found that time between cases in a chain of transmission is less than a week and that more than 10% of patients are infected by somebody who has the virus but does not yet have symptoms.

Demographics Linked to Choice Not to Vaccinate Children in Texas, Study Finds

Demographics Linked to Choice Not to Vaccinate Children in Texas, Study Finds

Texans who are college-educated, live in suburban or urban areas, have higher median incomes and are ethnically white are less likely to vaccinate their children, according to analysis by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin. The findings could help public health officials identify pockets of low vaccination rates where communities within the state are at higher risk for an outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles.

Researchers Say Spread of Coronavirus Extends Far Beyond China’s Quarantine Zone

Researchers Say Spread of Coronavirus Extends Far Beyond China’s Quarantine Zone

Infectious disease researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and other institutions in Hong Kong, mainland China and France have concluded there is a high probability that the deadly Wuhan coronavirus spread beyond Wuhan and other quarantined cities before Chinese officials were able to put a quarantine in place. At least 128 cities in China outside of the quarantine zone, including cities with no reported cases to date, had a greater than even risk of exposure, according to a paper currently in press with Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bacteria Engineered to Protect Bees from Pests and Pathogens

Bacteria Engineered to Protect Bees from Pests and Pathogens

A Varroa mite, a common pest that can weaken bees and make them more susceptible to pathogens, feeds on a honey bee. Photo credit: Alex Wild/University of Texas at Austin.

Scientists from The University of Texas at Austin report in the journal Science that they have developed a new strategy to protect honey bees from a deadly trend known as colony collapse: genetically engineered strains of bacteria.

Scientists Identify Genes that Help Protect Plant Genomes

Scientists Identify Genes that Help Protect Plant Genomes

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere have identified genes in plants that help maintain protective caps on the ends of their DNA. Because the genes have analogs in the human genome, the findings may hold important implications for our understanding of age-related disorders and cancers in humans.

Melissa Kemp Combines Art and Science in Study of Lizards

Melissa Kemp Combines Art and Science in Study of Lizards

Melissa Kemp, an assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, studies how extinction, biological diversification and colonization are shaped by environmental upheavals. She joined the faculty as a new hire in 2018, and this fall was announced as the winner of the Environmental Science Institute's Billy Carr Distinguished Teaching Fellowship.

A Big Brain Was a Good Thing for Ancient Carnivores, New Study Finds

A Big Brain Was a Good Thing for Ancient Carnivores, New Study Finds

Over most of the past 40 million years, having a larger brain relative to body size was an advantage for carnivores, increasing the probability that large-brained species survive while other species go extinct, according to a new study from a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin.

Student Writes Biologists Should Update Views on Same-Sex Behavior in Animals

Student Writes Biologists Should Update Views on Same-Sex Behavior in Animals

Over the years, scientists have recorded same-sex sexual behavior in more than 1,500 animal species, from snow geese to common toads. And for just as long evolutionary biologists studying these behaviors have grappled with what has come to be known as a "Darwinian paradox": How can these behaviors be so persistent when they offer no opportunity to produce offspring?

Graduate Students Receive Department of Energy Fellowships

Graduate Students Receive Department of Energy Fellowships

Graduate students Albina Khasanova and Emily Raulerson received research fellowships from the Department of Energy.

Two graduate students from the University of Texas at Austin, Albina Khasanova and Emily Raulerson, received fellowships from the Department of Energy to carry out research in one of 12 DOE national laboratories.

UT Biophysicist Recognized as 2019 American Physical Society Fellow

UT Biophysicist Recognized as 2019 American Physical Society Fellow

The American Physical Society recognized Claus Wilke, University of Texas at Austin professor and chair of the Department of Integrative Biology, as a 2019 Fellow in September. Fellowships are awarded based on outstanding contributions to the field of physics, and are received by no more than one half of one percent of the society's members each year.

Elaborate Komodo Dragon Armor Defends Against Other Dragons

Elaborate Komodo Dragon Armor Defends Against Other Dragons

Just beneath their scales, Komodo dragons wear a suit of armor made of tiny bones. These bones cover the dragons from head to tail, creating a "chain mail" that protects the giant predators. However, the armor raises a question: What does the world's largest lizard – the dominant predator in its natural habitat – need protection from?

Alma Solis’s Research Helps Protect Farms from Pests and Control Invasive Plants

Alma Solis’s Research Helps Protect Farms from Pests and Control Invasive Plants

Alma Solis (B.S. '78, M.S. Biology, '82) is a research entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and curator for the Smithsonian Institution.

Alma Solis. Photo credit: Vivian Abagiu.
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In Singing Mice, Scientists Find Clue to Our Own Rapid Conversations

In Singing Mice, Scientists Find Clue to Our Own Rapid Conversations

Alston's singing mouse. Photo by Bret Pasch.

Studying the songs of mice from the cloud forests of Costa Rica, researchers from New York University School of Medicine and The University of Texas at Austin have identified a brain circuit that might enable the high-speed back and forth of human conversation. This insight, published online today in the journal Science, could help researchers better understand the causes of speech disorders and point the way to new treatments.