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Stavana Strutz

The Wild Wild West:

West Nile and Vector-borne Disease in Texas

West Nile virus is spreading across much of Texas causing hundreds of infections! Why is Texas and this year in particular so favorable for West Nile virus? This talk will examine the ecology of local and potentially threatening vector-borne diseases including West Nile virus, Chagas disease, and more!
Stavana Strutz is a graduate student in the Graduate Program in Ecology, Evolution & Behavior at the University of Texas at Austin. Science Under the Stars is a free, outdoor lecture series held at Brackenridge Field Laboratory.

Emily Jane McTavish

Journey to a New World – The Global History of Texas Longhorn Cattle!

★ Texas’s iconic longhorn cattle are descended from herds arriving with Columbus in the 1490’s. Left to roam the unfenced southwest, they adapted to their new environment through natural selection.

★ Using genomic data, we will trace the longhorn’s remarkable history – both around the globe, and back to the time of cattle domestication 8,000 years ago!

Taylor Sultan Quedensley

Lichenized-fungi of Texas: Biology, Ecology, and Distribution of a Diverse Group of Understudied Organisms

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Lichens are a diverse group of organisms in Texas, occupying many different types of habitats throughout the state. There are over 500 species reported for the state, and the number is undoubtedly greater considering the relatively low amount of collecting that has been conducted. With a diverse flora and fauna well-reported for Texas, lichens also need to be included in the discussion of the state’s high biodiversity levels, and also towards developing conservation strategies for threatened ecosystems.

Larry Gilbert

Organisms across a dynamic landscape: Reflections on the natural and unnatural history of Central and Southern Texas

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This lecture is focused on the southern Texas ecosystem where the speaker Larry Gilbert grew up. Much of the region lacks permanent streams and has a highly unpredictable climate.  These factors shaped the ecology and natural history of organisms (including people) in the area known as the brush country.  Explorer’s accounts from the early 16th century to the early 19th century allow interpretation of certain myths about the vegetation that have shaped management tactics from the 1950s. Conservation of diversity in this region will rely on a certain amount of myth busting along with private initiatives to recognize and retain remaining tracts of native landscape matching earliest accounts.  Economic incentives to conserve natural landscapes in the region include hunting and holistic range management for cattle production. Fragmentation of large private ranches is encouraged by inheritance taxes. Tax “write-offs” for “range improvement” encourage removal of natural vegetation. Legal mechanisms to reverse such trends would indirectly promote conservation of remaining tracts of quality habitat.

Samuel Scarpino

Influenza Dynamics and Vaccination in Texas

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From reductions in productivity to severe illness and death, Influenza has a profound impact on our state, country and world.  In addition, recent concerns surrounding Avian Influenza and Swine Origin H1N1 have only served to heighten our sense of insecurity about the emergence of a highly virulent, pandemic flu strain.  Can we predict the spread of flu in Texas?  How are modern vaccines produced and are they safe? Can the effect of a pandemic flu be mitigated?  In this talk I will discuss these questions and present research on the dynamics of flu in Texas, our response to emerging pandemic strains, and the development/safety of vaccines.