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From the College of Natural Sciences
Adapting the Frequency of COVID-19 Testing Depending on Transmission Rate and Community Immunity

Adapting the Frequency of COVID-19 Testing Depending on Transmission Rate and Community Immunity

Illustration by Jenna Luecke

Expanding rapid testing stands out as an affordable way to help mitigate risks associated with COVID-19 and emerging variants. Infectious disease researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new model that tailors testing recommendations to new variants and likely immunity levels in a community, offering a new strategy as public health leaders seek a way out of a pandemic that has so far thwarted the best efforts to end its spread. It is the first study to identify optimal levels of testing in a partially immunized population.

Frog Pandemic (Audio)

Frog Pandemic (Audio)

Until COVID-19, few people alive today had experienced the chaos and destruction of a really bad pandemic, one that has at times ground businesses, schools and social lives to a near standstill and killed millions globally. But did you know that we aren't alone in being battered by a global infectious disease? Frogs are also struggling through their own pandemic that, according to biologist Kelly Zamudio, has several eerie parallels with COVID-19. Perhaps our own encounters with a pandemic will give us new sympathy for our slimy, bug-eyed friends.

Texas Science Stories that Wowed Us in 2021

Texas Science Stories that Wowed Us in 2021

While for many 2021 may have felt like it lasted a few years, it was in fact just 12 months—and University of Texas at Austin scientists and researchers managed to pack a ton of new discoveries into that time. From the furthest reaches of the cosmos to the depths of the ocean and from the tiniest microbes to the most massive black holes, research in Texas Science covered a lot of ground, as researchers pushed boundaries, answered big questions and offered solutions to the world's problems. Here are 16 examples of how UT Austin scientists, mathematicians and technologists used 2021 to usher in new knowledge and innovations to help change the world.

Tropical Forests’ Recovery from Deforestation is Surprisingly Fast

Tropical Forests’ Recovery from Deforestation is Surprisingly Fast

Secondary forests at the slope Turrialba volcano in Costa Rica. Photo credit: Rens Brouwer.

Tropical forests are being deforested at an alarming rate, but also have the potential to regrow naturally on abandoned lands. A study published this week in Science shows that regrowing tropical forests recover surprisingly fast, and after 20 years can attain nearly 80% of the soil fertility, soil carbon storage, structure and tree diversity of old-growth forests. The study concludes that natural regeneration is a low-cost, nature-based solution for climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem restoration.

Switchgrass Genes Offer Advantages as Climate Change Tool

Switchgrass Genes Offer Advantages as Climate Change Tool

While switchgrass has been seen as useful as a clean-burning source of renewable fuel, it also has the ability to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and store it underground in its substantial root system. Atmospheric carbon is a major contributor to climate change and finding ways to sequester it underground could have impacts on efforts to mitigate the catastrophic effects of climate change.

Potential New Gene Editing Tools Uncovered

Potential New Gene Editing Tools Uncovered

Scientists have found over a thousand versions of a natural gene editor in bacteria, which could lead to better gene editing tools to treat diseases. Image courtesy: National Human Genome Research Institute.

Few developments have rocked the biotechnology world or generated as much buzz as the discovery of CRISPR-Cas systems, a breakthrough in gene editing recognized in 2020 with a Nobel Prize. But these systems that naturally occur in bacteria are limited because they can make only small tweaks to genes. In recent years, scientists discovered a different system in bacteria that might lead to even more powerful methods for gene editing, given its unique ability to insert genes or whole sections of DNA in a genome.

UT COVID-19 Experts Offer Pro Tips for Holiday Gatherings

UT COVID-19 Experts Offer Pro Tips for Holiday Gatherings

Many of us can't wait to catch up with friends and loved ones this holiday season, COVID-19 experts included.

"I look forward to connecting with family that I haven't seen in over 18 months," says Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. "Since we are not out of the woods with COVID-19 yet, we will take precautions so that we can enjoy being together with peace of mind."

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Receives Field Station Designation

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Receives Field Station Designation

At the intersection of life sciences research, teaching and public engagement rests a growing network of University of Texas at Austin field stations—all of which have a role in discovering strategies for environmental resilience and insights about the natural world. The latest addition is one of Austin's most treasured outdoor destinations and the official state Botanical Garden and Arboretum of Texas: the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

CNS Welcomes 16 New Faculty Members

CNS Welcomes 16 New Faculty Members

The College of Natural Sciences welcomed 16 new faculty members since April. They bring expertise in health, artificial intelligence, biochemistry, data science, coral reefs and much more. 

Like Their Domestic Cousins, Native Bees are Hurt by Pesticides

Like Their Domestic Cousins, Native Bees are Hurt by Pesticides

Image of a Mason Bee or Blueberry Bee (Megachilidae, Osmia sp.) by Alejandro Santillana, Insects Unlocked

Because they are critical in maintaining our food supply, a lot of research and public attention has been focused (rightly) on the health of domesticated honey bees. On the other hand, native bees also play critical roles in their environments, including pollinating flowers and agricultural crops. Unfortunately, hundreds of North American native bee species are in decline, due to a variety of factors including loss of habitat, nutritional stress, climate change and exposure to pathogens and agrochemicals.