Tag Archives: University of Texas at Austin

Research Brings Invasive Jewel Cichlid to the End of the Line at the Brackenridge Field Lab

Ms. Laura Dugan and Commander Ben with captured invasive species

Earlier this year, I met Ms. Laura Dugan during a Science Under the Stars event at the University of Texas at Austin Brackenridge Field Laboratory, and she talked with me about how the invasive Jewel Cichlid shatters native ecosystems.

Ms. Dugan is pursing a doctoral degree in biology, and she is studying the effects that the invasive species, Jewel Cichlid (Hemichromis guttatus), is having on the native species, Minckley’s Cichlid (Herichthys minckleyi), found in Northern Mexico.

She invited me to help her with her research.  I was a little nervous, since I had not worked on a university science project before, but I was looking forward to it because I thought that I could learn a lot and it could help in the fight against invasive species.  Plus it sounded like fun too!

Rounding up the usual suspects

Commander Ben hunting Jewel Cichlid at the Brackenridge Field Lab to help with invasive species research

For two days last week, I worked with Ms. Dugan to collect both the invasive Jewel Cichlid and the native Cichlid from the field lab’s outdoor circular water tanks.  These tanks were so big that I couldn’t put my arms around them even if I tried.  Some tanks just had invasives, just natives, or a mixture of both.  The tanks were covered with a net to keep fish from jumping out.

First, we put down the pipes for all the tanks so they could drain, and we turned off the inflow of water.  We gave the tanks a few minutes to drain about 3/4 of the way down.

With the water drained, it was easier to catch the fish.  We used larger nets for the adults and smaller ones for the babies, the “fry”.  Both types of fish liked to hide in the algae, but they were no match for us. We caught a lot!

We put the fish in pickle buckets with water, and we wrote the tank number on blue tape that we stuck to the side of the buckets so we knew where the fish came from.

After we collected all the samples, we took the buckets back up to the lab building where Ms. Dugan started using them as part of her doctoral studies.

Ms. Laura Dugan, Ms. Jeanine Abrams McLean, and Commander Ben examining the Jewel Cichlid, an invasive species

Ms. Jeanine Abrams McLean also volunteered to help Ms. Dugan.  I met Ms. McLean earlier this year during her presentation at the Brackenridge Field Lab entitled, “Contagion: How Emerging Infectious Diseases Impact Amphibian Population Declines”.

Thanks, Ms. Dugan, for the wonderful opportunity to work with you and learn more about invasive species.  I can’t wait to see the results of your research and to see you again at the next Science Under the Stars!

Your friend,

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Filed under Brackenridge Field Lab, Invasive Species, Jewel Cichlid, Laura Dugan, Minckley’s Cichlid, Ms. Jeanine Abrams McLean, Science Under the Stars, University of Texas, UT Austin

DNA sequencing with the Shadow a Scientist program at UT Austin

Today, I had a great time at UT Austin with their Shadow a Scientist program, part of the College of Natural Science’s Freshman Research Initiative.

It was wonderful seeing Dr. Greg Clark again. I met him at the Barbara Jordan statue on the UT Austin campus, and we had a nice chat. Afterwards, I joined Mr. Peter Enyeart, a graduate genome researcher.

Mr. Enyeart led me through an experiment where we got to see what DNA sequencing is all about. This involved inserting bacteria into an agar substance and running an electric current through it to help the DNA spread out.

Agar is made up of tons of holes. The bigger DNA cannot go through the smaller holes, but the smaller DNA can spread out, and the two patterns create the DNA sequencing for study that we see here:

I enjoyed wearing the lab coat, gloves, and glasses. All I needed was a pocket protector to bring out my inner scientist!

I like lab coats! I also wear one as part of my costume in last year’s “The Boy who Cried Invasives” video, part of my Battles with Invasive Species video series:

If you haven’t had the chance to sign up for the Shadow a Scientist program, there’s still time to register, or if you’re a future middle schooler, don’t miss signing up for this program next year.

Thanks Dr. Clark and Mr. Enyeart. I had a spectacular time!

Your friend,

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Filed under Battles with Invasive Species, College of Natural Sciences, DNA sequencing, Dr. Gregory Clark, Freshman Research Initiative, genome, Mr. Peter Enyeart, Shadow a Scientist, University of Texas, UT Austin

Does UT Austin believe in Aliens? Life on Europa Hot Science

I loved seeing Dr. Jay Banner, director of the Environmental Science Institute, on the University of Texas at Austin campus (and I think he strayed onto “The Drag” too) interviewing all kinds of people, asking them if there’s life on other planets.

They had hugely varied responses from yes to no to ahhh…maybe.

This is a great video promoting the next Hot Science – Cool Talks about possible life on Europa, one of Jupiter’s icy moons. Dr. Britney Schmidt, research scientist with the UT Institute for Geophysics, will be presenting her latest research on Europa during the talk.

Watch the video to see what other questions Dr. Banner asked, and be sure to come to the next Hot Science – Cool Talk presentation on Friday, April 13, 2012, to learn more about Europa with Dr. Schmidt.

Commander Ben…signing off

P.S. You won’t believe what I did the other day! I had breakfast with Dr. Schmidt, and I had a great video interview with her about Europa, astrobiology, how she became a scientist, and more. I’m working on the videos for upload, and I look forward to sharing them with you soon. I learned so much from her, and I know that you will too!

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Filed under Astrobiology, Dr. Britney Schmidt, Environmental Science Institute, Europa, Jay Banner, Jupiter, University of Texas, UT Institute for Geophysics

Intercepted Transmission to Dr. Andrew Howell for Hot Science – Cool Talks

Although pursued by an invasive species of unknown origin, Commander Ben sends an urgent transmission to Dr. Andrew Howell to get important news and a preview of his upcoming Hot Science – Cool Talk, “Dark Energy, Explosions, and Zombie Stars:  The Past and Future of Our Universe”.

Don’t miss his presentation on Friday, January 13, 2012, 7 pm CT at The University of Texas at Austin in the Student Activity Center Auditorium. Be sure to get there early and join in the fun pre-lecture activities beginning at 5:45.

Dr. Howell is a staff scientist with the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network and host of the third season of the National Geographic Channel series “Known Universe.” His talk is part of the awesome Hot Science – Cool Talks series, presented by the UT Austin – Environmental Science Institute.

Learn more about the Hot Science – Cool Talks series, including four great video interviews with Dr. Chris Kirk’s on his presentation, “Your Eye, My Eye, and the Eye of the Aye-Aye”.

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Filed under American Astronomical Society, Austin Astronomical Society, Dark Energy, Explosions, and Zombie Stars, Dr. Andrew Howell, Environmental Science Institute, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Known Universe, Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, My Eye Your Eye and the Eye of the Aye-Aye, National Geographic Channel, University of Texas