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Recording of The world beneath your feet: a salamander’s perspective

Thanks to everyone for their flexibility with the rescheduling of Ruben Tovar’s talk! If you were unable to attend his fascinating talk about salamanders last Thursday, then check out the recording of his presentation and Q&A. And check out our YouTube channel for recordings of our past virtual Science Under the Stars lectures!

Virtual SUTS! The world beneath your feet: a salamander’s perspective

Please note change of date!

Welcome to Science Under the Virtual Stars! Join us this month when we’ll hear from Ruben Tovar share fun facts and information all about salamanders! Log on tomorrow, Thursday, November 18th at 7:00 pm CST! Below is a PDF full of links to activities for kids of all ages about salamanders, a coloring page of salamanders designed by UT Austin’s very own Britt White (who spoke at October’s SUTS) and a link to our virtual natural history tour of Brackenridge Field Laboratory. The live lecture and Q&A will be held over Zoom–link below!

Salamander Activities! Click the link or the image above for a list of fun activities and games for all ages!

Salamander coloring page designed by our very own Britt White!

Tour of Brackenridge Field Laboratory (13 min)

Eurycea latitans salamanders, Photo by Tom Devitt

Zoom Information for live lecture and Q&A, November 18th at 7:00pm CST:

Topic: Virtual SUTS! The world beneath your feet: a salamander’s perspective
Time: Nov 18, 2021 07:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 999 0069 8815

November 18th, Ruben Tovar

The world beneath your feet: a salamander’s perspective

**Please note date change!**

Please note that for this event, both the lecture and Q&A will be live and recorded.

Living in caves can be difficult for animals. Without light and little prey, it’s easy to wonder: how do cave-adapted animals survive and thrive in such extreme habitats? Join us as we dive into the dark depths of Texas’s aquifers to explore the diverse salamanders that live under our feet. Using cutting edge techniques, we will learn how differences in Eurycea salamander development might lead to the evolution of bizarre cave characteristics, like small eyes, flattened heads, and longer limbs, and how these subterranean aliens offer a window into the health of Texas aquifer ecosystems.

Science Under the Stars has gone virtual! This semester all SUTS activities will be online, but we encourage you to participate outdoors under the stars in your backyard! (If wifi allows for it, of course.) This month’s schedule is as follows:

  • November 10th: Links to the kids activities will be posted here and on our Facebook page.
  • November 18th, 7:00pm CST: Live online lecture and Q&A with the speaker! Please note, you must have a Zoom account to access the talk. You can get a free account on Zoom’s website.

Zoom info:

Meeting ID: 999 0069 8815

Science Under the Stars is a free public outreach lecture series based in Austin, Texas.

November 14, Chase Rakowski

Plankton: the little alien-like creatures that might save us all

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Is that an alien? Or is it just an Earthling that’s totally different from anything you’ve ever seen? Welcome to the world of plankton, the tiny living things found in almost every bit of water on Earth. You might never realize they’re there, but just a handful of natural water contains astonishing numbers, and life as we know it wouldn’t be possible without them. What’s more, they may hold the key to solving some of our biggest problems. Come see these little water-”aliens” in action and find out how important they really are!

Science Under the Stars is a free public outreach lecture series in Austin, Texas. The talk will be held outdoors at Brackenridge Field Laboratory, 2907 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, Texas 78703. Here’s the schedule for this month’s event (please note time change):

  • 6:00 pm: Snacks, kids activities, and displays of local animals and plants found at Brackenridge Field Laboratory will be available.
  • 6:15 pm-6:45 pm: Guided tour of the field lab (wear sturdy shoes and bring water)!
  • 7:00 pm: Settle in, because the talk begins now!
  • 7:45 pm: Q&A with the speaker.

First time visitor? Please read our pet policy & field station rules here, and find parking info and directions here.

Neighborhood Science at Twin Oaks Branch Library

Science Under the Stars has expanded to include the Austin Public Library! At Neighborhood Science, previous SUTS speakers will present at different library branches around the city a couple times a month. Below are the dates and descriptions for this fall at the Twin Oaks Branch Library, 1800 S 5th St, Austin, TX 78704. All talks begin at 7pm.


A Sweat Bee native to Texas covered in pollen. credit: Alejandro Santillana, Insects Unlocked

Thursday, October 3, 7pm: Megan O’Connell – “Bees go grocery shopping” 

How to Think, Dance, and Grocery Shop Like a Bee! We humans depend on bees for a lot more than we realize, but the bees need our help! Around the world bees are struggling to survive and now it is up to us to save them. One place to start is to understand which bees live around us (spoiler alert: it’s not just honey bees!), how they think, and what they like to eat. We’ll share all the interesting ways scientists gather this information, what we know so far, and most importantly, what you can do to help!



Leafcutter ants defending their nest against an army ant. Credit: Alex Wild Photography

Thursday, November 7, 7pmTristan Kubik – “Clash of the Myrmidons” 

The Amazon rainforest is home to two unexpected titans. Leafcutter ants are peaceful, sedentary farmers responsible for processing huge volumes of tropical vegetation. They use their foraging material to cultivate obligate, fungal nurseries that cradle precious brood deep within their subterranean fortresses. Few organisms are courageous or capable enough to threaten mature leafcutter colonies, but the tank army ant is one of them. Tank army ants are nomadic, subterranean ant-killing machines. Their colonies can reach as many as several million and their hunger for leafcutters is insatiable. They flush out and overwhelm kilograms of prey every day with their numbers, mandibles, and venomous stings. And yet, leafcutter nests are not without defenses. Leafcutter colonies rapidly mount impressive responses to the alarming presence of tank army ant scouts including specialized soldiers, construction of barricades, and air-tight linear battlefronts. These two large, complex, derived societies clash in epic battles akin to the wars waged long ago by the Greeks and Romans with heroes just as notable as Hercules and Achilles. Such examples of social conflict are of great interest to systems science and parallels can be drawn to instances of immune systems vs disease, competing economies, and even human warfare. Join me for a night of bravery, sacrifice, and storytelling as I share my passion and knowledge about this riveting rivalry!



Amazon molly (Poecilia formosa), an all-female clonal fish

Thursday, December 5, 7pm: Allison Davis – “How to get a date: story of a clone” 

What do people, peacocks, and Poeciliids have in common? This Valentine’s day, they are all looking for dates! While tasty treats and fancy feathers may work for many animals, clones need some special dating advice. Join us this month to discover how an all-female clonal fish joins the dating scene!