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10 Environmental Stories You Might Have Missed

10 Environmental Stories You Might Have Missed

As people around the world celebrate the 45th annual Earth Day this week, it's a good time to reflect on the many ways researchers in the College of Natural Sciences are helping tackle environmental challenges, including wildfires, drought, pollution, biodiversity loss, habitat destruction and climate change.

Here are ten environmental stories from the college you might have missed from the past year (in no particular order):

Monarch butterfly1. Reducing textile waste: Just this week, Karen Bravo wrote an opinion piece for Texas Perspectives calling on clothing designers to make their products sustainable and on consumers to choose clothing that will last.

2. Helping the monarchs: Scientist Tracy Villarreal at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute is recruiting citizen scientists in the Gulf of Mexico to help use a smart phone app to submit monarch butterfly sightings, helping to fill in a critical gap in data on the annual migrations of this declining species. 

3. Assessing eco-friendly coffee: Despite such coffee’s high profile, biologist Shalene Jha has found something surprising: the proportion of shade grown coffee being produced, relative to total coffee production, has fallen by nearly 20 percent globally since 1996.

4. Getting by when it’s dry: Biologist Christine Hawkes is searching for the ways that microbes living inside plants confer drought resistance, a useful trait for developing crops that can adapt to a changing climate.

Switchgrass5. Better fisheries management: Marine biologists have discovered a kind of reverse food web that has important implications for managing fisheries.

6. Biofuel from switchgrass: Students in the Freshman Research Initiative are evaluating Switchgrass, a promising biofuel species that could help reduce our climate-altering carbon emissions. (Video)

7. Restoring Lost Pines: Following one of the most destructive wildfires in Texas history, biologists are documenting the recovery of the Lost Pines in the hopes of possibly influencing long-term decisions that go into managing the recovery of the forest. (Video)

8. Monitoring an oil spill: A University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI)-led consortium of seven institutions was awarded $9.2 million to continue research on the impact of oil spills and dispersants on the Gulf of Mexico and public health. The research is funded by British Petroleum in the wake of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill. 

Prescribed burn9. Algae to the rescue: Biologists rediscovered a fast-growing bacterial strain first found on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin in the 1950s, which might ultimately prove useful for carbon sequestration and biofuel production, among other things.

10. Controlled burns: Researchers at The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin use prescribed burns to help create and restore healthy landscapes. Prescribed burns simulate wildfires that would have historically occurred in native ecosystems, giving plants space and nutrients to germinate and grow. (Video)

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Comments 2

 
Guest - Heather Rahman on Friday, 24 April 2015 14:33

This is very informative and insightful. At UT the last elective class I took b/f graduation in Austin was "Human Use of the Earth". It was the best class to end my time with UT. Most people didn't even recycle back then. Ever since, I've stayed informed with articles like these concerning human impact on Earth, and as a result, stayed progressive re: environment topics. Thanks for this post!

This is very informative and insightful. At UT the last elective class I took b/f graduation in Austin was "Human Use of the Earth". It was the best class to end my time with UT. Most people didn't even recycle back then. Ever since, I've stayed informed with articles like these concerning human impact on Earth, and as a result, stayed progressive re: environment topics. Thanks for this post!
Guest - Phyllis Metcalfe on Thursday, 07 May 2015 09:40

I wish seeds of host plants for Monarch butterflies were more available. It seems that more gardeners could assist in the effort to save these pollinators.

I wish seeds of host plants for Monarch butterflies were more available. It seems that more gardeners could assist in the effort to save these pollinators.
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Monday, 20 November 2017

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