Whether I'm delving into why consuming silver can turn your skin blue or sharing about glowing creatures, I love learning and writing about science and the natural world. Here's a smattering of the pieces I've written.
May 1, 2019
Talmo Pereira is studying how the courtship song and dance are represented in the brains of the flies. Along the way, he and colleagues developed a powerful method to track animal behavior. “We developed all this crazy artificial intelligence just to try to understand fly sex,” jokes Pereira. “Or not even sex really, just what leads up to it.” Read more…
February 21, 2019
Since the 1970s, researchers have been using mirrors to probe the minds of animals, gleaning clues from how they interact with and investigate their reflections in a quest to understand their cognition. A study published in PLOS Biology this month (February 7) suggests that fish may join the ranks of animals that recognize themselves in a mirror.
January 22, 2019
Beech leaf disease, named for the tell-tale symptoms that appear on foliage, is killing American beech trees. It was first spotted in northeast Ohio in 2012 and has since moved into 10 Ohio counties, eight Pennsylvania counties, one county in New York, and five counties in Ontario, Canada. Its rapid spread has led scientists to raise the alarm as they try to figure out the cause. Read more…
August 23, 2018, NPR Goats and Soda Blog
Tiny, pesky and deadly, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are super at spreading disease, including dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus. Yet all over the world, scientists, nonprofits and biotech companies are raising hordes of this species to release into the wild.
March 27, 2018, Science News
Tweaking DNA and adding magnetic nanoparticles creates a new tool to test for contaminants.
November 15, 2017 wcsj2017.org
MOSS LANDING, California—Forget Mars. The next frontier in the search for undiscovered life forms may lie deep in the oceans of our own planet. Thousands of meters below the ocean’s surface, hulking underwater rovers probe the remote depths looking for mysterious creaturess
August 20, 2017 The Sacramento Bee
Bumblebees are not early risers. It’s nearly noon and none are out in the wildflower-filled meadow where Michelle Duennes, a researcher at the University of California, Riverside, looks for them and listens for buzzing.
“It should be bee city out here,” she says, eyeing the deep-purple lupine and delicate fuchsia shooting stars. Duennes is collecting bumblebees from all over California to study their health. This morning’s site is near Sonora Pass, high in the Sierra Nevada.
August 18, 2017 The Sacramento Bee
At 14 feet tall and nearly 1,600 pounds, Goody is an unusual arthritis patient. She’s also a reticulated giraffe and a celebrity of sorts at the Sacramento Zoo.
In addition to the attention and treats she gets from zoo visitors at the feeding deck of the giraffe exhibit, behind the scenes she receives care from the zoo’s veterinarians and keepers to manager her condition.
This colorful frog’s survival is at risk in California’s streams. Here’s how the state could save it
August 17, 2017 The Sacramento Bee
Shy of 3 inches with skin in muddy shades of red, green or brown, the foothill yellow-legged frog is unremarkable at first glance. Flipping it over, however, reveals the signature gold shading of its legs and lower abdomen that leads some to exclaim its beauty.
The amphibians used to be common in the foothill streams of mountain ranges across California, including the Sierra Nevada and Coast ranges. Now they’re gone from over half of their historical habitat in California, and scientists and wildlife advocates are worried about their survival.
June 23, 2017 The Sacramento Bee
Sometimes better flood protection comes from giving a river some space to roam. Hamilton City, 85 miles north of Sacramento, learned that lesson from a new levee project that both protects against flooding and restores wildlife habitat.
June 21, 2017 The Sacramento Bee
Here on Earth, the rise of autonomous vehicles looms large. But researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena are more interested in using that sort of automated decision-making to explore remote destinations in space
March 6, 2017 New Scientist
A new material can absorb up to 90 times its own weight in spilled oil and then be squeezed out like a sponge and reused, raising hopes for easier clean-up of oil spill sites.
This contrasts with most commercial products for soaking up oil, called “sorbents”. These are generally only good for a single use, acting like a paper towel used to mop up a kitchen mess and then tossed away. The discarded sorbents and oil are then normally incinerated.
November 22, 2016 Helix Magazine
As with medicines in our bodies, chemicals in the environment act and interact differently when multiple are present. For plants, insects, or microbes, chemical contaminants may be more or less toxic in combination than they are alone.
September 22, 2016 Helix Magazine
Located a few hours drive from Seattle, the North Cascades National Park showcases the majesty of mountains frosted with snow, the splendor of ancient trees reaching to the skies, and the jubilance of meadows bursting with wildflowers. Glaciers and volcanoes have shaped this landscape over millennia. The forces of nature pushed up mountain peaks, carved valleys, and dropped lakes like gems over the land, creating a region teeming with ecological diversity. Things here are still changing, but because of a different force: climate change.
July 21, 2016 Helix Magazine
High-level or long-term exposure to silver causes a disease known as argyria. Argyria permanently turns the skin a shocking shade of blue or gray. While this condition typically occurs because of silver ingestion, it can also result from the overzealous use of silver-containing nasal sprays and eye drops (neither of which is recommended by the FDA). Famously-blue Paul Karason was known as “Papa Smurf” (photo). He developed his azure hue from drinking a concoction of silver nanoparticles, a practice which he thought would improve his health.
April 8, 2016 Helix Magazine
Spring is here. In the forests of the Midwest, frogs are waking from their hibernation. Many of these frogs, including the spring peeper (Pseudaris crucifer) and the wood frog (Rana sylvatica), hibernate below the bark of trees or beneath leaf litter on the forest floor. As cold-blooded animals, they need heat from outside sources to maintain their body temperature. When the temperature drops, these frogs freeze.
November 24, 2015 Helix Magazine
“Don’t forget the sunscreen!” The imperative cried before a trip to the beach is an important one, with the pasty white lotion saving many a sunbather from sunburns and damage from the sun’s UV rays, which can lead to skin cancer. Many of these lotions use small, invisible nanoparticles of the minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to save your skin. But when the warmth of the sun’s rays encourages us to splash in the waves on the beach, we do not usually think of where washed off sunscreen components are going. When these incredibly tiny nanoparticles enter the environment, they become pollutants and how they interact with light is cause for concern.
August 13, 2015 Helix Magazine
Recently I visited the Field Museum in an effort to start chipping away at the deficit in my cultural exploration of Chicago. It was a fun outing, though it ended with fatigue, a very saturated mind, and the satisfaction that my perusal of the exhibits was very thorough. Out of all the interesting exhibits I saw at the Field Museum, the one that most captivated my attention was one on lichens, “the coolest things you’ve never heard of.”
July 1, 2015, Helix Magazine
Things that glow have long captivated our imaginations. For me, the word “glow” itself evokes images of fairies and magical potions, or the latest Disney movie I’ve seen in which some luminous object is key to the storyline. Glow-ers of the natural world also provide beauty and fascination.
April 10, 2015, Helix Magazine
When I was visiting family this past week, my mother-in-law shared with us how she uses her Fitbit to keep track of how much she exercises, how well she sleeps, what she has been eating, and other lifestyle information. The numbers she watches—her number of steps, caloric intake, and so on—are “metrics” of her health and though they don’t tell her everything, they allow her to measure progress in keeping her health goals on a day-to-day basis. Just like there are metrics that are helpful in tracking human health, it would be useful to have indicators for the health of the earth.