Button to scroll to the top of the page.

News

From the College of Natural Sciences
These Tiny Coral Reef Fish Parents Decide When Their Embryos Hatch

These Tiny Coral Reef Fish Parents Decide When Their Embryos Hatch

Leaving the comfort and safety of home to explore the world is a difficult decision. However, in a tiny coral reef fish called a neon goby, dads help their offspring take the plunge by pushing them out the door when the time is just right.

A male neon goby regulates the hatching of embryos within a spawning shelter. To induce hatching, the male goby picks up embryos from the clutch using its mouth, swims to the entrance of the shelter and spits free-swimming larvae into the water column. Credit: John Majoris.
Adding Predictability to the Carbon Market

Adding Predictability to the Carbon Market

Salt marshes store a vast amount of carbon. Researchers conduct sampling in North Carolina marshes to help shed light on accumulation rates that can be used in carbon credit calculations. Photo credit: Josh Himmelstein.

Salt marshes are a hot but unpredictable commodity in the carbon market. Salt marshes store a vast amount of carbon, and industries and businesses are looking to this habitat to offset CO2 emissions by buying carbon credits, restoring marsh or conserving marsh. The problem lies in the fact that carbon accumulation rates for salt marshes vary wildly, making it challenging to put a consistent price per acre of salt marsh for a carbon offset amount.

The University of Texas at Austin Selects Director for Marine Science Institute

The University of Texas at Austin Selects Director for Marine Science Institute

Ed Buskey is the director of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, based in Port Aransas.

Ed Buskey has been selected to serve as director of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, which this year is celebrating more than 75 years on the Texas Gulf Coast. Buskey has been interim director of the institute since June of 2021, and he served previously as chair of the Department of Marine Science and associate chair of the Marine Science Institute.

Virus Discovery Offers Clues About Origins of Complex Life

Virus Discovery Offers Clues About Origins of Complex Life

Eukaryotic cells. Credit: iStock.

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin report in Nature Microbiology the first discovery of viruses infecting a group of microbes that may include the ancestors of all complex life. The discovery offers tantalizing clues about the origins of complex life and suggests new directions for exploring the hypothesis that viruses were essential to the evolution of humans and other complex life forms.

Nielsen Named One of Five National Academies Early-Career Research Fellows

Nielsen Named One of Five National Academies Early-Career Research Fellows

Kristin Nielsen, assistant professor at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute

PORT ARANSAS - As one of the five scientists who have been selected for the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine's Early-Career Research Fellowship in Human Health and Community Resilience, Kristin Nielsen, assistant professor at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute, will use her expertise to investigate how climate change is altering the potential for dietary contaminant exposure in remote Alaskan communities.

A More Nuanced Approach is Needed to Manage Coral Reef Ecosystems

A More Nuanced Approach is Needed to Manage Coral Reef Ecosystems

Rangiroa, French Polynesia. Credit: Jordan M. Casey.

For many years, conservationists have tended to focus on one key parameter when assessing coral reef health: the biomass of coral reef fishes. But according to a new study of more than 500 coral reefs around the world, what constitutes healthy or "functional" goes far beyond this single metric. Reporting in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, an international team identified five key functions that fish provide to a reef. Together, they paint a clearer picture of reef health.

Unlikely Partners: Bees and Turtles

Unlikely Partners: Bees and Turtles

An injured sea turtle has had honey from Fennessey Ranch applied to a wound to promote healing.

Honey bees and sea turtles may seem like strange bedfellows, but through two of the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve's (NERR) stewardship programs – Fennessey Ranch and the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) – these two species are connected through a unique collaboration.

Reading the Tea Leaves

Reading the Tea Leaves

Kelley Savage, Research Scientist Associate with the Mission-Aransas Reserve, lays out a transect line in order to place multiple tea bag samples in the salt marsh on Mustang Island. Photo credit: Christina Marconi.

Sometimes well known, simple household objects can be the best tools to use in a science experiment. Researchers at the Mission-Aransas Reserve are part of an international experiment with the Smithsonian MarineGEO (Global Earth Observatory). Tea bags are used to determine salt marsh decomposition rates, how microbes help the decomposition and if the environment makes a difference. Tea bags it turns out are a great source for science because they are readily available throughout the globe and are similar in size, weight and composition.

Nurdle Patrol Expands its Citizen Scientist Effort to Fight Plastic Pollution on Beaches

Nurdle Patrol Expands its Citizen Scientist Effort to Fight Plastic Pollution on Beaches

Recent funding support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program will allow for expansion of Nurdle Patrol into Mexico and increased data and surveys of nurdle pollution. Map show survey locations and number of nurdles collected, as of September 2021. The basemap was created using ArcGIS® software by Esri.

PORT ARANSAS, Texas – Plastic pollution in marine environments has no border. The waters of the United States and Mexico are inextricably linked through currents of the Gulf of Mexico and with them flow marine debris. One source of marine debris of concern are plastic pellets, or nurdles. Now with new support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the Matagorda Bay Mitigation Trust, the Nurdle Patrol citizen science program is expanding across the United States and into Mexico.

Loss of Picky-Eating Fishes Threatens Coral Reef Food Webs

Loss of Picky-Eating Fishes Threatens Coral Reef Food Webs

Coral reefs all over the world, already threatened by rising temperatures brought about by climate change, also face serious challenges from the possibility of fish species extinctions. According to a paper out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the networks of predator fish and their prey found on coral reefs all over the world are remarkably similar, and those predator fish are pickier eaters than previously thought. These delicate ecosystems become even more vulnerable when these specialized hunters go extinct.

Finding the Goldilocks Zone for Fish at Oil Platforms

Finding the Goldilocks Zone for Fish at Oil Platforms

Researchers used a submersible-rotating drop-camera to capture fish images, such as vermilion and red snapper, and identify fish distribution and abundance patterns. They conducted 114 surveys at 54 platforms throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: Derek Bolser.

If you are an angler looking for the best place to fish in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil platforms offshore of Louisiana's Atchafalaya River are your best bet. The most comprehensive study of fish assemblages near oil platforms, released today in the journal Fisheries, identified the area as a hotspot.

Bay Education Center is Fully Repaired and Reopened after Hurricane Harvey Damage

Bay Education Center is Fully Repaired and Reopened after Hurricane Harvey Damage

Opening May 8 is the Bay Education Center in Rockport,Texas. Credit: Eddie Seal

This May 8, 2021 the Bay Education Center, which is operated by the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, a program of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, will reopen and showcase its new exhibits. Like many museums and nature centers on the Texas coast, the Bay Education Center was struck a double blow with Hurricane Harvey and then the pandemic. 

Climate-friendly Microbes Chomp Dead Plants Without Releasing Heat-trapping Methane

Climate-friendly Microbes Chomp Dead Plants Without Releasing Heat-trapping Methane

Tengchong Yunnan hot springs in China, where some of the newly described Brockarchaeota were collected. Photo credit: Jian-Yu Jiao from Sun Yat-Sen University.

The tree of life just got a little bigger: A team of scientists from the U.S. and China has identified an entirely new group of microbes quietly living in hot springs, geothermal systems and hydrothermal sediments around the world. The microbes appear to be playing an important role in the global carbon cycle by helping break down decaying plants without producing the greenhouse gas methane.

Record Number of Turtles Rescued at University of Texas Marine Science Institute

Record Number of Turtles Rescued at University of Texas Marine Science Institute

Winter Storm Uri caused damage and hardship across the state of Texas, and at the Port Aransas campus of the University of Texas at Austin, the work to recover from it included rehabilitating a record number of sea turtles threatened by the cold weather.

Jessica O’Connell Connects Ecology Research with Local Conservation Efforts

Jessica O’Connell Connects Ecology Research with Local Conservation Efforts

Photo courtesy of Jessica O'Connell.

Jessica O'Connell, an ecologist, remote-sensing specialist and data scientist, recently joined the Department of Marine Science as an assistant professor. O'Connell worked in wetlands across North America before making her way to the Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, where she works to uncover what causes change in wetland systems while being responsive to local conservation and management issues. Part of that work looks at how climate change and sea level rise may impact coastal marshes.