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Recording of Byte-size biology: What computers can teach us about animals

Thanks to everyone who were able to make it to our first SUTS of the semester! In case you missed Mackenzie M. Johnson sharing her research on how she uses supercomputers to understand the biological world, check out this recording of the presentation and Q&A. And check out our YouTube channel for recordings of our past virtual Science Under the Stars lectures!

Virtual SUTS! Byte-size Biology

Welcome to Science Under the Virtual Stars! This month, we get to hear from Mackenzie M. Johnson all about how supercomputers (aka really powerful computers) can help biologists learn about the world around us. Join us tomorrow, Thursday, September 9th at 7:00 pm CDT! Below is a PDF full of links to activities for kids of all ages about genetics and biological variation, 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!

Byte-size Biology: Click the link or the image above for a list of fun activities and games for all ages!

Tour of Brackenridge Field Laboratory (13 min)

Population variation. Photo: D. Lewis & L. Jesse, Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Zoom Information for live lecture and Q&A, September 9th at 7:00pm CDT:

Topic: Virtual SUTS! Byte-size Biology
Time: May 13, 2021 07:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 962 2653 96489

September 9th, Mackenzie M. Johnson

Byte-size biology: What computers can teach us about animals

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

What is a supercomputer and how are biologists using them to better understand the natural world? Join us to find out more about the modern technologies being used to address traditional challenges in population biology. We’ll discuss the diversity we observe, the diversity we cannot, and the tools we can use to make sense of it.

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:

  • September 8th: Links to the kids activities will be posted here and on our Facebook page.
  • September 9th, 7:00pm CDT: 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: 962 2653 9648

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

Spring Neighborhood Science at Howson 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 Howson Branch Library, 2500 Exposition Blvd, Austin, TX 78703. All talks begin at 7:30pm. **These talks will be held outdoors, so bring a chair and dress accordingly! Talks will be moved indoors in case of inclement weather.

Portrait of an iguana

Photo credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

February 25th at 7:30pm: Francisco Llauger – “Through Claws and Scales: Reptiles, Conservation, and Iguanas of the Caribbean”
Reptiles are often among the most misunderstood animals walking, crawling, and slithering across our planet, but I’ve always seen nothing but fascinating beings that deserve our respect. I’ve led my life trying to study these creatures, and now I invite you to take that journey with me as we look at why these animals need our protection and look at a unique group of lizards nestled across the white sand beaches of the Caribbean-Cyclura, the most endangered lizards in the world!


Blue cheese

Photo credit: Hubertl

March 31st at 7:30pm: Tristan Kubik – “Fermented fantasia: a leavenly evening sure to spoil you rotten!”
Planet Earth is infested with germs. They coat everything from the surface of our skin to the machines we use, and yes, even the food we eat. Some of these germs can make us sick, some disgust us with their putrid byproducts, while still others poison the very air we breathe. But hiding amidst these tales of illness and foul decomposition is a love story of epic proportions. Amidst the fray of villainous viruses, bad bacteria, and insidious fungi are a few unsung heroes and gifted culinary artisans. What happens when animals break bread with these good microorganisms? What possibilities are unlocked when two unlikely allies team up and turn terrible into terribly wonderful. Together we’ll embark on an unexpectedly delicious adventure. Join me for a leavenly evening as I relate one of the world’s lesser-known love stories, a tale of deliberate food spoilage we affectionately refer to as fermentation!


Snake being held in hand

Photo credit: Anne Chambers

April 28th at 7:30pm: Anne Chambers – “Slithering serpents: biodiversity, natural history, and common misconceptions of snakes”
Do snakes really dislocate their jaws while feeding? How can you tell if a snake is dangerous? Are all snakes deaf? How did snakes evolve and what role do they play in an ecosystem? Get the answers to these questions and more during an evening exploring everything to do with snakes!

Drawings of brains of human, dog fish, frog, alligator, and ostrich

Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images

May 19th at 7:30pm: Isaac Miller-Crews – “Animal brains”
How do animal brains evolve? Come take a dive into neuroscience, looking at how animals (including humans!) use their brains. We will examine what is different and what seems to stay the same across a wide range of species.


Emma Dietrich

Spider Silk: An Extraordinary Biomaterial

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Known for its incredible strength and elasticity, possible human uses for spider silk currently range from the manufacturing of bulletproof vests, to the suturing of wounds, to the fabricating of elegant ball gowns, and on. But, how and why do spiders create and use this fascinating material in the natural world? And how can we possibly harvest tons of silk from spiders to use in the mass production of goods? To gain insight into these topics, come on out to the next Science under the Stars! (Caution: For those who are not arachnid-inclined, this talk will contain many images and video clips of spiders. Given that, we encourage anyone who is afraid of spiders to come learn more about these awesome creatures; perhaps we can convince you that they are, in fact, not so scary, and sometimes even adorable!).


Science Under the Stars is a free public outreach lecture series in Austin, Texas. Events start at 7:00pm outdoors at Brackenridge Field Laboratory, 2907 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, Texas 78703. Arrive early for refreshments and fun activities for kids of all ages! Guided tours of the field lab are available (wear sturdy shoes and bring water)!