Button to scroll to the top of the page.

News

From the College of Natural Sciences
Delays in Contact Tracing Impeded Early COVID-19 Containment, Researchers Find

Delays in Contact Tracing Impeded Early COVID-19 Containment, Researchers Find

Contact tracing programs were deployed around the globe to slow the spread of COVID-19, but these programs could not prevent the multiple waves of transmission and loss of life that have occurred since March 2020. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin found that a five-day delay between identifying a case and isolating contacts was the Achilles' heel of a contact tracing program in a large U.S. city.

Neutralizing Crazy Ants

Neutralizing Crazy Ants

Over the past 15 years or so, tawny crazy ants from South America have been popping up across the southeastern U.S. like paratroopers dropping in from an invading army. Where they take hold, they're like an ecological wrecking ball and they cause headaches for homeowners. Podcast host Marc Airhart joined biologist Edward LeBrun in the Texas Hill Country to test a new weapon in the battle against the destructive tawny crazy ant.

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.

Holy Bat Memory! Frog-Eating Bats Remember Ringtones Years Later

Holy Bat Memory! Frog-Eating Bats Remember Ringtones Years Later

Frog-eating bat (Trachops cirrhosus). Credit: Marcos Guerra.

Frog-eating bats trained by researchers to associate a phone ringtone with a tasty treat were able to remember what they learned for up to four years in the wild, according to a new study published in Current Biology.

Legacy of Colonialism Influences Science in the Caribbean

Legacy of Colonialism Influences Science in the Caribbean

Map of the Caribbean region. Generated using ArcGIS Pro online.

With the retreat of sprawling empires after the Second World War, one might think the colonial mindset of taking from smaller countries to support large nations would likewise be relegated to the past. But a new paper in The American Naturalist by an international collaboration of researchers shows how the legacy of colonialism remains deeply entrenched within scientific practice across the Caribbean archipelago.

How Electric Fish Were Able to Evolve Electric Organs

How Electric Fish Were Able to Evolve Electric Organs

UT Austin researchers confirmed that the genetic control region they discovered only controls the expression of a sodium channel gene in muscle and no other tissues. In this image, a green fluorescent protein lights up only in trunk muscle in a developing zebrafish embryo. Image credit: Mary Swartz/Johann Eberhart/University of Texas at Austin.

Electric organs help electric fish, such as the electric eel, do all sorts of amazing things: They send and receive signals that are akin to bird songs, helping them to recognize other electric fish by species, sex and even individual. A new study in Science Advances explains how small genetic changes enabled electric fish to evolve electric organs. The finding might also help scientists pinpoint the genetic mutations behind some human diseases.

Living Laboratories: Field Stations Offer Opportunities for Real-World Science

Living Laboratories: Field Stations Offer Opportunities for Real-World Science

Professor of Integrative Biology Tom Juenger conducts research on switchgrass at biological field stations in Texas and other parts of the country.

On a recent spring Saturday at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, families strolled along paths surrounded by a riotous mix of bluebonnets, winecups and evening primrose. Avid gardeners stood in line for a chance to shop the center's annual native plant sale. And a teen in a glittering dress posed for quinceañera pictures beside a pond.

Meet the Dean's Honored Graduates of 2022

Meet the Dean's Honored Graduates of 2022

Each year, the College of Natural Sciences bestows its highest honors for graduating seniors on a select group of students during graduation week. Students across the college are singled out for College of Natural Sciences Distinctions and celebrated at a special Graduates of Distinction event. Among the distinction winners is an even smaller group of students, known as Dean's Honored Graduates. 

NSF Awards Graduate Research Fellowships to 22 UT Natural Sciences Students

NSF Awards Graduate Research Fellowships to 22 UT Natural Sciences Students

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awards a Graduate Research Fellowship to students who plan on pursuing a research-based master's or Ph.D. program in a STEM-related field. The fellowship is awarded to exceptional individuals and will support them in elevating their research with the goal of furthering advancements that will transform the future.

Invading Hordes of Crazy Ants May Have Finally Met Their Kryptonite

Invading Hordes of Crazy Ants May Have Finally Met Their Kryptonite

Edward LeBrun, a research scientist with the Texas Invasive Species Research Program at The University of Texas at Austin’s Brackenridge Field Laboratory, collects tawny crazy ants at a field site in central Texas. Credit: Thomas Swafford/University of Texas at Austin.

When tawny crazy ants move into a new area, the invasive species is like an ecological wrecking ball — driving out native insects and small animals and causing major headaches for homeowners. But scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have good news, as they have demonstrated how to use a naturally occurring fungus to crush local populations of crazy ants. They describe their work this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.