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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!


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

Tuesday, September 24, 7:30pm: 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!

 

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Bats use sonar to see. Credit: Uwe Schmidt

Tuesday, October 29, 7:30pm: Caitlin Leslie – “Sensory Superheroes: Extreme Animal Sensory Systems”

Like Superman’s X-ray vision or Daredevil’s radar sense, animals often have abilities  to perceive the world that humans could only imagine! They see colors that we are blind to, detect heat with their faces, send calls through the ground, and communicate with electricity. Come learn about some of the extreme sensory systems that exist in the animal world that allow them to hunt, navigate, and communicate in superhuman ways!

 

Tuesday, November 26, 7:30pm: Chase Rakowski – “Plankton: the little alien-like creatures that might save us all” 

Description coming soon!

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

Wednesday, December 4, 7:30pm: Tristan 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!

 

May 16th Neighborhood Science

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.


Sarah Barfield – Permaculture principles in the sustainable food movement

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Demand for sustainable, locally produced food is growing across the U.S. This movement has led to a resurgence in local farmer’s markets, urban gardening, and farms utilizing sustainable soil practices guided by permaculture principles. The results of these past and ongoing efforts to produce sustainable food have to led to incredible examples of abused land that has been restored to healthy and productive farm ecosystems. Come join us at Science Under the Stars this month if you want to learn about permaculture principles, soil biology and ecology, and more!

  • Thursday, May 16th, 7:30pm at the Twin Oaks Branch, 1800 S 5th St, Austin, TX 78704

More Neighborhood Science!

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.


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Two species of flamingo on a lake in Africa (Torres et al., 2014)

April 9: Chris Torres – Evolution of the flamingo’s smile

Flamingos are some of the most iconic and recognizable animals in the world… but where did they come from and why do they look so funny? After centuries of struggle, biologists are finally beginning to make sense of how the bizarre flamingo lifestyle might have evolved. Come listen to the story of flamingo evolution, as told by one of the guys who helped piece it all together, and learn about how long flamingos have been around, what their relatives are like, and what they looked like before they turned so pink.
  • April 9, 7pm at the Howson Branch Library, 2500 Exposition Blvd, Austin, TX 78703 **This talk will be held outdoors, so bring a chair!

     


 

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Tree frogs do not only live in trees. Photo: D. Correa

May 14: Decio Correa – All about frogs (and toads!)

What is the difference between a frog and a toad? Why do frogs call? Is it true that frogs are disappearing? Are frogs poisonous? What are tadpoles? Get the answers to these and many other frog FAQs while you learn more about one of the most amazing creatures on Earth! You will be guided through the life of frogs (and toads!), from the early larval stages until they metamorphose into jumping animals with all different colors, shapes, sizes, and sounds!
  • May 14, 7pm at the Howson Branch Library, 2500 Exposition Blvd, Austin, TX 78703 **This talk will be held outdoors, so bring a chair!

Additional Neighborhood Science Talk

 

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Golfo Dulce poison dart frog (Phyllobates vittatus) uses warning colors to advertise its toxicity to predators. Photo: CR Morrison

March 28: Collin Morrison – “Plant and Animal Chemical Interactions” 

If atoms are the alphabet of life, then chemistry is the language that articulates those building blocks and gives them meaning in our lives. Behind every biological interaction—from mating signals to toxicity warnings—chemicals guide and shape possible outcomes.

Biologists study the variation of life using many different lenses. One tool that Colin uses in his research is the study of chemical ecology. Chemical ecology combines the fields of chemistry and biology to understand the causes and consequences of species interactions, distribution, abundance, and diversity. The promise of studying the chemistry of interactions between plants and animals stems from its potential to further our understanding of ecology and allow us to conserve nature in a holistic way. This month, Colin will show that chemistry is not an abstract study confined to research laboratories. Rather, it is a universal way of communicating that is responsible for the quantity and quality of plant and animal life on Earth. Colin Morrison is a PhD student in UT’s Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior program. You can read more about his work here: https://www.colinrmorrison.com/

  • March 28, 7pm at the Howson Branch, 2500 Exposition Blvd, Austin, TX 78703. **This talk will be held outdoors, so bring a chair!

Neighborhood Science Talks

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. Stay tuned for more updates!


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March 28: Emily Rees – “The Science of Superheroes” 

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Would you choose super-strength? The ability to leap over tall buildings in a single bound? Invisibility? Mind-control? These ‘superpowers’ that we see in movies and comic books actually occur in a variety of different animals! Come out to Neighborhood Science to learn about the invisible lurker of the ocean, the fastest punch among animals, and the heavy lifters of the animal kingdom.
  • March 28, 7pm at the Twin Oaks Branch, 1800 S 5th St, Austin, TX 78704


 

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A singing mouse trills in the cloud forest, declaring its presence. credit Bret Pasch

April 25: Tracy Burkhard – “As quiet as a mouse? (Not singing mice!)”

“As quiet as a mouse” refers to people who don’t make a peep–but contrary to the popular saying, many mice want to be heard, and some are actually quite loud! Mice–and mammals in general–use all kinds of vocal sounds to communicate with each other in a variety of contexts. How do mammals make vocalizations? What are mice are saying to each other? And can mice really sing? Come to this lecture to find out answers to these questions and more!
  • April 25, 7pm at the Twin Oaks Branch, 1800 S 5th St, Austin, TX 78704