Topic: Ecology

Current Event June 10, 2020

Fuzzy Green "Glacier Mice" Mystify Scientists

Ecology Plants

Scientists are stumped by a mystery involving rolling glacial moss. The green, fuzzy balls move slowly across the surface of glaciers and are known as “glacier mice” because they resemble rodents. What amazes scientists is how the unusual rolling plants manage to coordinate the speed and direction of their movement, similar to a herd of animals. Listen to hear more about scientific research on these mysterious moss balls and why one scientist thinks of a “Star Trek” episode when she sees them.

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Current Event May 5, 2020

Snapping Shrimp Growing Louder

Animals Climate Change Human Impacts Oceans Ecology Marine Biology

Snapping shrimp produce surprisingly loud noises by clicking their claws. The noises they make are so pronounced that they once led to a Navy investigation. Ocean warming is causing the snapping shrimp clicks to become even louder and more frequent. The increase in ocean noise from this and other human impacts can be disruptive to marine ecosystems where sound is important to survival. Listen to hear what snapping shrimp sound like and learn why their sounds might be helpful to some species and harmful to others.

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Science

Colorful Butterfly Wings

Animals Ecology Diversity and Adaptation

The eye-popping colors and designs on butterfly wings are not just for show, but are an important adaptation that helps the insects fend off predators. Some butterflies have wings containing toxins, signaling danger to birds and other hungry hunters. Others fold their wings for camouflage or flutter them so the colors confuse birds giving chase. Listen to hear an insect scientist explain more about the amazing ways butterflies’ colorful wings help them survive.

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Current Event November 13, 2019

Saving Coral Through Captive Breeding

Animals Oceans Ecology Conservation Reproduction

Coral reefs are endangered all around the world. Scientists are working on a variety of solutions to protect these important ecosystems and species. Recently, one Florida-based team was able to successfully breed corals in a lab. This is quite an accomplishment, especially since corals are delicate and require specific conditions to reproduce. Listen to learn how the Florida scientists managed to get corals to breed in a lab, and find out what it might mean for coral reefs around the world.

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Current Event November 6, 2019

Invasion of the Lanternflies

Environment Ecosystems Ecology Diversity and Adaptation

A Chinese insect has invaded Pennsylvania. It likely traveled on shipping containers across the Pacific ocean and when it arrived, it found bountiful food and no real predators. Now, the spotted lanternfly populations are getting out of control. With both ecosystems and businesses suffering, experts are considering drastic actions to reduce this invasive insect’s spread. Listen to learn more about the spotted lanternfly and scientists’ “crazy” solution to this bug’s growing numbers.

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Current Event October 30, 2019

Birds Are Disappearing

Environment Animals Ecosystems Human Impacts Ecology Conservation

According to a new report, bird populations are generally decreasing throughout North America. Having fewer birds could negatively impact our ecosystems and our lives. However, there are steps we can take to help our feathered friends bounce back. Listen to learn what factors are causing bird populations to decline and some simple steps people can take to help slow the trend.

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Current Event October 17, 2019

Deadly Mosquito Changes History

Health Genetics Ecology Viruses

Mosquitoes are biting insects that can bother people at summer barbecues, but they have also played an important role in human history. One historian says that mosquitoes have been critical in changing the course of history, primarily by spreading deadly diseases that have killed billions of people. He explains how new genetic tools might be used to eliminate the threat to humans posed by these dangerous insects, which offer no clear ecological benefits. Listen to hear the surprising ways that mosquitoes have influenced history and how mosquito populations could potentially be controlled.

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Current Event October 2, 2019

Squirrels Are Listening

Environment Animals Ecosystems Language Ecology Diversity and Adaptation

Have you ever wondered what chirping birds might be saying to each other? Squirrels seem to understand communications between their feathered neighbors, and they use this information to help them stay alive. Recently, scientists decided to see just how much information “eavesdropping” squirrels gather from birds. Listen to discover what they learned and how these animals’ networks operate “almost like Facebook.”

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Current Event April 8, 2019

Plastic Waste Has Nowhere to Go

Environment Ecology Pollution

For years, China bought plastic waste from the U.S. in great quantities, but they are no longer doing so. Now the U.S. must find alternatives to exporting plastic waste to China. Listen to this story to hear about why the recycling landscape has changed, what happens to the plastic that Americans throw away, and what can be done to address this mounting problem.

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Current Event October 18, 2018

Tiny Plastics Everywhere

Life Science Ecology Biology

When plastic is thrown away, it crumbles into tiny pieces, known as microplastics. These small bits of plastic, less than 5 millimeters (or 0.2 inches) in size, are polluting rivers, lakes, oceans, and even soil. Scientists are studying how microplastics find their way into the ecosystem and what happens when they do. Listen to hear what research ecologists are doing to learn more about how microplastic waste may be affecting us and our world.

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Current Event September 13, 2018

One Square Inch of Silence

Environment Human Impacts Ecology

Places without any human-made sound are rapidly disappearing. The “One Square Inch of Silence” project aims to preserve one such place in the Hoh River Valley, located in Washington’s Olympic National Park. Listen to a sound specialist guide a trek into the rainforest to experience natural silence.

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Science

What is Being an Ecologist Really Like?

Life Science Ecosystems Ecology

It's easy to imagine what it's like to be a doctor, lawyer, or teacher. However, the day-to-day life of a shellfish and wetland ecologist can be a little more difficult to understand. Help your students find out what an ecologist does by hearing from Danielle Kreeger. She's the science director for a group that works to protect and improve the Delaware River and Bay. Listen to hear more about her career as an ecologist.

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Science

Heirloom Seeds Bring Back Diversity

Life Science Ecology Plants

Heirloom seeds are more than 50 years old and are not genetically modified. Jere Gettle, author of "The Heirloom Life Gardener," is particularly fascinated by heirloom seeds and he noticed they were being dropped by seed catalogs in the 1980s. The plants they produce are typically different from what we see in the grocery store. Listen to learn more about Gettle’s fight to bring heirloom plants back to our dinner tables.

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Science

Industrial Scale Composting

Life Science Ecosystems Energy Physical Science Ecology

Students in Bellingham, Washington, pushed to introduce composting programs at their high schools and these programs have proved successful. This story follows food from the school cafeteria to the compost site where microorganisms transform it to home gardens and nurseries where compost is applied as fertilizer and mulch. Listen to hear from an insider's view of an industrial scale composting site and how we can learn how to compost.

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Science

Sea Slug: Animal or Plant?

Life Science Genetics Ecosystems DNA Oceans Ecology

Small green sea slugs puzzle scientists because they can photosynthesize energy, just like plants. These Eastern Emerald Elysia sea slugs also appear to have several different types of DNA. Scientists are hopeful these sea slugs might help them discover more about human DNA and treat human diseases. Listen to learn how these tiny creatures are teaching us more about genetics.

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Science

Microbes in the Water Hole

Life Science Environment Human Impacts Ecosystems Ecology

While popular swimming holes are commonly tested for bacteria, few are tested for protozoans. Protozoan-caused illnesses can cause problems for swimmers in rivers, lakes, and ponds. Listen to learn how we can distinguish between the different types of microbes and how this introduces the classification of microorganisms.

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Science

Biomimicry and a Desert Beetle

Life Science Earth and Space Science Engineering Physical Science Ecology

To copy the way a desert beetle gets water, scientists have designed a membrane that can extract water from the air. Since all air contains water, even in the desert, this could provide a very inexpensive way to supply drinking water. This process is called “biomimicry,” or using ideas from nature to solve technological problems. This discovery could lead to reusable water bottles that refill themselves. Listen to learn why this invention would be inexpensive and how close scientists are coming to making it work.

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Science

DNA Changes the Linnaean Classification System

Life Science Ecosystems Ecology Plants

The system we use to organize life is called the Linnean system, named after Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus. The name of every living thing has a place because of Linnaeus. But now new DNA technology is changing the way to think about the classification system. Scientists are debating whether it is possible to change a system that has been strictly followed for the past few hundred years. Listen to learn how scientists discovered this change in the system.

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Science

Japanese Knotweed's Invasive Superpowers

Life Science Ecology Plants

Even beautiful plants can sometimes be detrimental to the environment. This public radio story takes place in Michigan where the sale of Japanese knotweed has been outlawed following unchecked growth of the large ornamental plant. Japanese knotweed is fast-growing, aggressive and hard to control. It can destroy pavement and even houses and it is unlikely to be eradicated any time soon.

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