A selection of stories
Scientists Sequence DNA from a 3,000-Year-Old Brick
A chunk of a Mesopotamian palace revealed genes from dozens of ancient plants
Scientific American, December 2023
New Models Could Predict Climate Change Effects with Unprecedented Detail
Scientists have proposed a network of supercomputing centers that would focus on local climate impacts
Scientific American, November 2023
Searching for Wisconsin’s Dugout Canoes
Researchers compiling a digital library of the boats show how Indigenous practices persisted as landscapes changed.
Undark, October 2023
Revealing the Mysteries of Whip-poor-wills—and What It Might Take to Save Them
Recently uncovered secrets long held by species in the elusive nightjar family, and those still waiting to be unraveled, could provide information vital to curtailing their recent losses.
Audubon, Fall 2023
A Binocular Guide for Growing Birders
A good pair of bins can wow kids, helping them to delight in birding. Here are five picks that make the grade.
Audubon, Fall 2023
New Chemical Process Offers Hope for Mixed-Plastics Recycling
A molecular additive allows different kinds of plastic to be recycled together
Scientific American, October 2023
Forever Chemicals and Cancer Risk
Researchers in Chicago are studying how PFAS affects health and where people might be exposed
Chicago Health, September 2023
Here’s How to Use Window Films to Actually Protect Birds
Bird-strike-deterrent window films don’t work if they’re placed on the indoor side
Scientific American, May 2023
Mercury’s Journey from Coal-Burning Power Plants to Your Plate
The EPA wants to lower people’s exposure to this potent neurotoxin by going after the pollutant’s biggest source.
Natural Resources Defense Council, May 2023
Oyster Mushroom Venom Kills Roundworms—So the Mushrooms Can Feast
A volatile compound makes nematodes food for oyster mushrooms
Scientific American, April 2023
Mining for Limestone on Chicago’s Southeast Side? Residents Gear Up for a Fight (Again).
A proposal to build an underground facility on a contaminated lot is yet another reason the city needs to address the cumulative impacts of industry on communities.
Natural Resources Defense Council, February 2023
Saving Coral Reefs with Dental Tech
Dental scanners could help researchers diagnose stressed-out baby corals
Scientific American, December 2022
How Floating Wetlands Are Helping to Clean Up Urban Waters
As cities around the world look to rid their waterways of remaining pollution, researchers are installing artificial islands brimming with grasses and sedges. The islands’ surfaces attract wildlife, while the underwater plant roots absorb contaminants and support aquatic life.
Yale Environment 360, November 2022
Drones Sample Rare Specimens from Cliffs and Other Dangerous Places
Flying robots help researchers identify and protect threatened plants and other species in places that are inaccessible to humans
Scientific American, October 2022
See Which Countries Have the Most Interconnected Wildlife Preserves
Reducing human threats could unlock important connections between protected animal habitats
Scientific American, October 2022
Organizations and medical professionals step up to help the newest Chicagoans
Chicago Health, September 2022
Midwest Heat Waves May Cook Crops—and Fry Harvests
Climate change–induced temperature extremes could wilt corn and soybean yields, potentially causing ripples to food supplies across the world.
NRDC, September 2022
This Little-Known Electricity Agency Could Give Renewable Energy the Push It Needs
State public utility commissions have the power to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change. Some have already begun.
Audubon.org, September 2022
All the Gear You Need to Fill Your Backyard With Birds (And Learn Everything About Them)
Birdbaths, binoculars and an app that works like Shazam for bird calls are among the tools birding experts say will help you join the legions of people who began birding during the pandemic. No need to leave your neighborhood.
The Wall Street Journal, July 2022
Book Review: Helping Water Find Its Own Level
In “Water Always Wins,” Erica Gies shows how “water detectives” are seeking to slow and reshape the flow of a vital resource.
Undark, July 2022
Marine Microbe Lures Prey into Custom Slime Traps
These organisms’ private “mucospheres” play an outsize role in the planet’s carbon cycle
Scientific American, June 2022
How Countries ‘Import’ and ‘Export’ Extinction Risk Around the World
A recent study puts a number to how much our consumption imperils threatened species
Scientific American.com, May 2022
Ancient prairie, home to endangered bees and rare plants, may soon be razed by airport
A growing group of people are fighting to save a rare Illinois prairie from imminent destruction.
National Geographic.com, March 2022
Food as Medicine
Chicago groups find creative ways to provide fresh food and build healthy communities
Chicago Health, March 2022
On the Great Lakes, scientists are making a ‘Winter Grab’ of rare data
Projecet aims to address lack of winter studies of lakes and reveal impacts of climate change
Science, February 2022
Desert Plants’ Adaptations Help Them Thrive
Genes found in the flora could help crops and biofuels survive more drastic extremes
Scientific American, February 2022
Movie-Making Tech Reveals Elephant Trunk Motions
The pachyderms build simple actions into complex movements
Scientific American, December 2021
For Thousands of Years, Indigenous Tribes Have Been Planting for the Future
With yields of biodiversity and more climate-resilient food supply, a movement is sprouting in BIPOC communities across North America to save heirloom seeds and preserve culture.
NRDC, November 2021
Listening to a Story Helps Hospitalized Kids Heal
Story time reduced pain and stress
Scientific American, October 2021
Your Body: Friend or Foe?
New York Times for Kids (not available online), October 2021
How Adding Rock Dust to Soil Can Help Get Carbon Into the Ground
Researchers are finding that when pulverized rock is applied to agricultural fields, the soil pulls far more carbon from the air and crop yields increase. More studies are underway, but some scientists say this method shows significant benefits for farmers and the climate.
Yale Environment 360, September 2021
Black Minds Matter
What will it take to address the city’s racial disparities in mental health care?
Chicago Health, September 2021
A Federal Clean Energy Standard Would Build On Decades of State Experience
Already 30 states have set clean-energy goals. Their successes in meeting them, and proving critics wrong, are the seeds for a national standard.
Audubon (online), September 2021
Scientists urged Wisconsin to limit its wolf kill. It didn’t go well
State board to allow hunters to kill 300 wolves, raising fears for population’s health
Science (online), August 2021
Plant Absorbs Toxic RDX Contamination
Modified switchgrass can sop up weapons chemicals on military ranges
Scientific American, August 2021
Electric Utilities, Long Anchored by Coal, Are Starting to Break for Renewables
Renewable electricity will save money in the long run. But that’s tough logic for utilities desperate to earn every penny from their fossil-fuel investments.
Audubon (online), July 2021
The Scent of Danger Makes These Fish Hulk Out
Some fish go through pronounced, yet reversible, physical changes when they sniff a predator’s trail.
Hakai, July 2021
Narwhal Tusks Point to Changing Arctic Conditions
Pollutants have increased, and prey has changed, as the water warms, a chemical analysis of tusks shows
Scientific American, July 2021
Ecologists Saved Bald Eagles with Helicopter Parenting
One of the country’s largest captive-breeding programs for the once endangered species has helped it recover in California.
Scientific American (online), April 2021
Wildfire Recovery Aided with Planting Model
A new tool can help land managers focus their efforts to restore forests
Scientific American, April 2021
Why Electric Utilities Are Resorting to Dark Money and Bribes to Resist Renewables
Many utility companies cling to old business models and dirty fuels rather than go through the tough energy transition climate change demands.
Audubon (online), March 2021
Scientists Investigate Covid-19 and Risk of Dementia
Caregiving, March 2021
Everything You Need to Know About Buying Ethically Sourced Down Products
A growing number of brands are prioritizing the welfare of the birds that supply the feathers stuffed into items like jackets, comforters, and pillows.
Audubon (online), December 2020
Lidar Advances Show Mosquito Rush Hours
New research shows how a laser-based system can help detect mosquito movements.
Scientific American, August 2020
Strongest Evidence Yet Shows Air Pollution Kills
The finding comes as the Trump administration has been rolling back clean air regulations.
Scientific American, July 2020
How to Dramatically Curb Extinction
A new model suggests a way to save half of tropical species.
Scientific American, June 2020
COVID-19 May Permanently Shutter Museum Devoted to Vaccination Pioneer
In an ironic twist, Edward Jenner’s historic house is struggling to outlast the financial toll of being closed.
Smithsonian online, May 2020
Self-Isolation Is Turning Children Into Budding Birders
During the coronavirus crisis, families are discovering their avian neighbors and nurturing the next generation of nature lovers.
Audubon online, April 2020
Why COVID-19 Is Unlike Anything We’ve Seen
An infectious disease specialist answers questions about cases, contagion, and drugs.
Chicago online, April 2020
Why Nobody Can Resist Baby Yoda
New York Times for Kids, February 2020 (not available online)
One Solution to the Carp Apocalypse: Just Eat Them
A Chicago fishmonger wants to make the invasive species into a delicacy.
Chicago (online), December 2019
When Animals Get Spooked
New York Times for Kids, October 2019 (not available online)
The world needs topsoil to grow 95% of its food – but it’s rapidly disappearing
Without efforts to rebuild soil health, we could lose our ability to grow enough nutritious food to feed the planet’s population.
The Guardian, May 2019
Could Mammoth Bones Reveal When Humans First Arrived in North America?
Paleontologist Dan Fisher is challenging scientific consensus about when people first came to the continent and how they may have changed the world around them.
Sapiens, May 2019
US farmers count cost of catastrophic ‘bomb cyclone’ in midwest
With grain stores ruined and many fields still under water from last month’s extreme weather, producers are facing devastating losses.
The Guardian, April 2019
Get ready for tens of millions of climate refugees
Researchers are creating models of where people will move when climate shocks hit, but so far we’re just making educated guesses.
MIT Technology Review, April 2019
How Field Museum Scientists Protected a Swathe of the Amazon
For decades, museum staff has studied a megadiverse stretch of forest in Peru’s northeast. Now, it’s a designated national park.
Chicago (online), March 2019
Why Do We Like Being Scared?
New York Times for Kids, October 2018 (not available online)
These Surfers Are Taking on U.S. Steel
Surfers on Lake Michigan are getting sick, and they think they know why.
Outside (online), October 2018
Snakes That Eat Other Snakes Could Help Birds in the South
By restoring the country’s indigo snake population, scientists hope to bring balance to ecosystems—potentially benefiting songbirds.
Audubon, March 2018
8 Medical Inventions Created by Nurses
Mental Floss, May 2017
Study finds criticisms of the Endangered Species Act unfounded
Science (online), December 2015
Looks Fishy, Tastes Fishy. But Where’s the Fish?
For vegetarians, allergy sufferers, and the epicurious among us, chefs are getting creative with seafood substitutes.
Science Friday, July 2015
Bye-bye Golf Courses, Hello Nature Preserves
The Great Recession had at least one silver lining for wildlife: Golf courses are being turned into natural protected places.
Audubon, September 2013
Urban Farms Sprout Across the Country
Gray asphalt and abandoned lots in cities are being turned into farms as city dwellers grow fruits and vegetables in the shadow of skyscrapers.
Audubon, March 2011
Band of Brothers
Not even a tragic accident could derail two young men’s inspiring project to study one of North America’s least-understood birds. Their groundbreaking research is helping ornithologists understand how to help these birds as a warming climate alters.
Audubon, May 2010
A selection of Midwest Dispatches written for the Natural Resources Defense Council
Expand the DAPL? Only Illinois Stands in the Way May 2020
Environmental advocates are fighting a proposal to double the amount of crude oil flowing through the pipeline.
Can a New Tax on Uber and Lyft Rides in Chicago Change Communting Habits? February 2020
A surcharge on trips taken with ride-hailing services could reduce traffic, cut emissions, and help fund much-needed public transit improvements on the South and West Sides of the city.
These Prehistoric Fish Are Making a Slow Comeback in the Midwest, January 2020
Conservationists, fishers, and fans of the iconic lake sturgeon have seen some success in their efforts to revive the population, including through hand-rearing and releasing the babies—and yes, spearing the big ones.
America’s Dairyland May Have a PFAS Problem, October 2019
The toxic chemicals have been showing up in milk around the country, prompting midwestern farmers to take a closer look at their land. October 2019
After Children Began Getting Sick by the Dozens, Parents Took a Hard Look at Their Town’s Toxic Legacy, May 2019
The carcinogen TCE has been lurking in the ground beneath Franklin, Indiana, for decades. Now families are demanding answers.
A Coal-to-Diesel Refinery Is the Last Straw for These Hoosiers, February 2019
The air in southwestern Indiana is bad enough without the emissions from yet another proposed polluter.
A Tribe in Northern Minnesota Shows the Country How to Do Community Solar, December 2018
Photovoltaic panels on the Leech Lake reservation are generating clean power—and revenue to help those who need it most.
Stopping a Dakota Access Pipeline Leak in Under 10 Minutes? A Fairy Tale, Say the Standing Rock Sioux, May 2018
In a recent report, the tribe picks apart the pipeline company’s emergency response plan.
The Impact a Wisconsin LCD Plant May Have on the Great Lakes Is Not Crystal Clear, April 2018
The state is allowing Foxconn to take water from Lake Michigan, but what might the company leave behind?
Will Calling Out Indiana’s Super-Polluting Power Plants Lead to a Cleanup? January 2018
A recent study found that the state is home to four of the country’s most polluting power plants. But elected officials won’t even show up to hear their constituents’ concerns about it.
How Fish Autopsies Help in the Fight Against Asian Carp, October 2017
Dead fish tell many tales—but can they persuade authorities to strengthen Lake Michigan’s defenses against these ecological saboteurs?
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