Looking for fascinating science and nature stories?
Check out a few of my features.
Neanderthals were a lot like our human ancestors
Think calling someone a Neanderthal is an insult? Think again. New evidence shows they lived in groups, used fire to make tools, made sophisticated cords (ropes), and even had health care. (Online. January 19, 2023)
Forensic scientists are gaining and edge on crime
New developments have boosted the ability of forensic scientists to puzzle out what happened at a crime scene, allowing them to recover invisible fingerprints and ID people from tiny bits of bone, tissue, or just a few cells’ worth of DNA. (Online. December 22, 2022)
Persuasion can be used to change hearts and minds
Persuasion can be used for good — or ill — to change how people feel. To protect yourself against undue persuasion, pay attention. (Online. September 1, 2022)
Warning! Nicotine poses special risk to teens
Even a single dose of nicotine during early teen years can change the way the brain is wired and start a life-long cycle of nicotine use and addiction. (Online. May 19, 2022)
Addiction can develop when reward-seeking changes a teen’s brain
Reward-seeking leads to changes in teen brains. Over time, the rewards disappear even as a craving for them grows, but stress to regain those rewards can drive many teens to use again and again. (Online. February 10, 2022)
We all imagine being friends with celebrities. Is that a bad thing?
One-sided bonds, called “parasocial relationships” can foster acceptance of others and help boost self-esteem. But beware, they also make you more susceptible to some advertising. (Online. January 20, 2022)
Rewilding returns lost species to strengthen ecosystems
Scientists are turning to animals to help them restore ecosystems. Returning species to areas where they once lived can restore ecosystem health, slow climate change, improve water quality, protect against wildfires, and more. (Online. January 6, 2022)
Rhinos, camels, and bone-crushing dogs once roamed Nebraska
Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park in the rolling hills of northern Nebraska reveal an ancient world that looks a lot like today’s African savanna. New methods of research allow scientists to peek through the ash before digging, so they know where to target their efforts. (Online. May 13, 2021)
Teen depression linked to how the brain processes rewards
Depression is far more than just feeling sad. Many people with depression feel empty, which may be due to changes in the brain. The good news: teens with depression can prevent life-long brain changes if they get help. (Online. March 18, 2021)
Around the world, birds are in crisis
The world’s birds are in serious trouble, with an estimated three billion gone missing in the United States, alone. Scientists are on the case, learning what’s harming birds and figuring out how to help them. (Online. December 3, 2020)
Soggy coastal soils? Here’s why ecologists love them
Coastal wetlands are more than just a bunch of wet land. They’re critical habitats for plants and animals–and they provide essential protection against storm surges and rising sea levels. (Online. September 17, 2020)
Conservation is going to the dogs
Detection dogs are the newest tool in the conservation toolbox. These high-energy, ball-crazy dogs seek out scents that help biologists study otherwise hard-to-find critters, plants, and even diseases. Learn more about these conservation canines and how they’re helping ecosystems around the world. (Online. April 2, 2020)
Zapping the brain may make it work right again
Medications can help people with a variety of brain disorders, but they don’t work for everyone. What do people do when they can’t find relief? Some are turning to deep brain stimulation. Zapping the brain can provide relief from otherwise insufferable symptoms. (Online. March 26, 2020)
The color of body fat might affect how trim people are
Brown, beige, white? Not all body fat is the same. In fact, brown and beige fat burn calories, instead of storing them. Learn about these different types of fat, why they do what they do, and how adding beige fat could become a key to good health. (Online. October 10, 2019)
Don’t snooze on getting enough sleep
Sleep boosts mood, regulates weight, and even helps you learn. If you’re not getting enough you’re probably feeling the effects. But be careful not to nap too much! (Online. September 19, 2019)
Ocean energy could be the wave of the future
Scientists are harvesting the power of waves to generate clean, renewable energy. Find out how this new technology is making a splash. (Online. May 30, 2019)
What part of us knows right from wrong?
Pinocchio had Jiminy Cricket instead of a conscience, but the rest of us have an internal sense of right and wrong. Where does that sense come from and why do we have it? (Online. March 21, 2019)
Here’s what puts teen drivers at greatest risk of a crash
Teen drivers are more likely to get into car crashes than adult drivers. Inexperience and lack of attention to what’s happening on the road play a role in those youthful accidents. (Online. October 11, 2018)
Athletes’ head injuries can provoke surprisingly long-lasting harm
New research on concussions suggests that the brain may remain injured for months, even years, after a head injury. And long-term damage can occur even without a concussion. (Online. February 15, 2018)
Increasingly, chocolate-makers turn to science
Chocolate is more than just a sweet treat: It contains nutrients and other plant chemicals that may boost health. Scientists are working to grow stronger, healthier trees and make cocoa that’s rich in health-boosting chemicals. (Online. February 8, 2018)
The power of ‘like’
‘Liking’ an online post is an easy way to show approval, but even a single ‘like’ can change the kinds of information people see and even affect their behavior. Part 2 of Social Media story. (Online. October 17, 2017)
Social media: What’s not to like?
Social media interactions can help boost self-esteem for tweens and teens.But they can also contribute to ‘drama’ and even foster depression. Part 1 of Social Media story. (Online. October 12, 2017)
Mindfulness in eating pays the body big dividends
Savoring each bite of a meal helps us slow down when we eat, which improves the experience and makes smaller amounts of food more enjoyable. It can also lead to better health. (Online. August 17, 2017)
Night lights have a dark side
Bright lights at night create light pollution, which alters animal behavior (including our own) and may even lead to diseases like cancer. The good news? It’s the easiest kind of pollution to control. (Online. July 27, 2017)
Think you’re not biased? Think again
Everyone has biases against other groups of people: blacks, women, and the obese for a start. But those biases can be changed. The first step? Recognizing that you have them. (Online. June 22, 2017)
Tattoos: The good, the bad and the bumpy
Some people treat skin like a canvas, “painting” it with tattoos. That permanent ink can cause allergic reactions, or it can boost the immune system. But beware: many inks aren’t meant to be used on the human body. (Online. May 11, 2017)
What makes a pretty face?
Beauty is only skin deep, or so the saying goes. And yet we have a hard time ignoring a pretty face. Why is that, and what is it that makes a face beautiful? Oddly enough, it has to do with being average.(Online. December 5, 2016)
What is IQ—and how much does it matter?
You may have heard of IQ or taken a IQ test. But what does your IQ score tell you about your ability to succeed? Maybe not as much as you think. (Online. October 13, 2016)
Teachers make time for Ebola and other current events
Teachers! Do you cover current events in the classroom? Not sure how to make time? Worrisome current events, such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak, can provide unique learning opportunities. (Online. May 3, 2016)
‘Mindfulness’ defuses stress in classrooms and teaching
Teachers, this one’s for you. Early studies show that mindfulness training can reduce stress and improve teaching performance, while also helping students learn. (Online. March 29, 2016)
Powered by poop and pee?
Imagine riding on a bus powered by the stuff you flush down the toilet. One such bus actually exists. It’s just one possible use of human waste as a renewable source of energy. (Online. February 5, 2016)
Cool jobs: All in your head
Psychology isn’t just about lending a sympathetic ear. Come meet a trio of experimental psychologists who study the brain and behavior in everything from dogs to monkeys to people. Featuring some of my husband’s super-cool work on patience in primates! (Online. December 8, 2015)
When every face is a stranger’s face
You may find it easy to spot someone you know in a crowd, but for people with ‘face blindness’ every face looks the same: eyes, nose, mouth, ears. Learn more about this condition that affects as many as two in every 100 people. (Online. November 13, 2015)
The dirt on soil
What lies beneath your feet? Much, much more than you ever imagined. Get the dirt on soil and all of the important roles it plays in everything from food to floods to climate change. (Online. October 16, 2015)
Cool jobs: Finding new uses for nature’s poisons
Check out these cool jobs in science! These researchers use toxins from critters (including mites, frogs, and spiders) to fight pests and germs–all while keeping people safe. (Online. October 9, 2015)
Big future for super small science
Heard of nanotechnology? Find out how scientists use nanotubes to overcome mechanical, environmental and optical obstacles. (Online. April 24, 2015)
Tiny plastic, big problem
Scientists find that tiny pieces of plastic travel great distances and wind up inside marine animals, threatening the ocean’s ecosystems. (Online. April 10, 2015)
Stress for success
Stress doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Find out how psychologists help anxious teens put their worries to good use. (Online. March 20, 2015)
Hi! I’m a grade 9 student from BC and my class and I had to do a project called science in the news. I chose to look into your article about “Stress for success” I would just like to say it is brilliant! It explained how stress worked and how to cope with it. You simplified it so I could understand but you didn’t dumb it down. Thank you so much, I learned so much from it. Absolutely outstanding!
Air pollutants strike a blow to the brain
Scientists track super-small pollutants into the brain, where they can cause damage similar to that in people with Alzheimer’s disease. (Online. December 17, 2014)
How people have been shaping the earth
Humans are now the biggest driving force shaping the planet. So much so that scientists are considering renaming our current time period to reflect that influence. (Online. October 17, 2014)
Learning rewires the brain
As we learn, our brains rewire. In the process, brain cells change shape and even fire backwards. (Online. September 2, 2014)
Saving the banana
Bananas are the world’s most popular fruit, but they might not be around for long without help from a hard-working team of scientists. (Online. August 28, 2014)
Why are bees vanishing?
Scientists find a combination of threats, from pesticides to climate change, may explain declining bee populations. (Online. January 10, 2014)
Caught in the act
How do species adapt to a changing environment? Scientists observe species in the process of evolving. (Online. December 11, 2013)
Some dirt won’t hurt
Not only is it okay to get dirty, it may even reduce risk of asthma and allergies. Find out why (and how to clean up properly after playing outdoors). (Online. July 17, 2013)
Stem cells: The secret to change
Recent discoveries in cellular research might just pave the way to restore sight to the blind, repair damaged spinal cords, or even overcome genetic disease. (Online. April 10, 2013)
Concussion: More than ‘getting your bell rung’
Think a head injury isn’t a big deal? Think again. This common brain injury can cause serious – and lasting – damage. (Online. February 20, 2013)
Pathways to Research: Pursuing a passion
What does it take to do independent research at your high school? A positive attitude, perseverance, and a big helping of creativity. (Online. November 19, 2012)
Young scientists tackle abstract problems
Think math isn’t useful? Think again. Check out these students’ independent, theoretical investigations that produced real-world results. (Online. October 24, 2012)
Scientists develop new technologies that will make future cities more sustainable. Leafy walls? Water footprints? Solar glitter? You bet. Come take a peek at the future. (Online. June 21, 2012)
Bee? Wasp? Flower Fly!
Ever have a feeling something is hovering near your head, watching your every move? There’s a good chance it’s a flower fly. (May 2019)
Champions of Hibernation
You may think dormice hang out with the Mad Hatter, but in real life they’re some of the longest-hibernating mammals. Find out more about these super sleepy critters. (May 2014) Download pdf: Champions of Hibernation
How Many Turns for the Tern?
Scientists have known for many years that Arctic terns migrate from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back each year, but just how far do they really fly? Dr. Egevang used geolocators to find out, and the results stunned everyone—even him! (June 2013) Access the article online
How Brainy are Monkeys?
You may find counting as easy as 1-2-3, but can animals count? Do they need to? Dr. Dawn Kitchen tested black howler monkeys in the jungles of Belize to find out, and the answer came through loud and clear. (March 2013) Download pdf: How Brainy are Monkeys?
How Bats Slurp at Night
You probably know most bats use echolocation to find their food. But how do they find water? Learn how Stefan Greif answered this surprisingly difficult question. (December 2012) Download pdf : How Bats Slurp at Night
Under the Ice
Can you imagine living your entire life on—or under—a shelf of sea ice? Weddell seals do. Explore the life of this Antarctic seal to learn what it takes to live in this extreme environment. (September 2012) Access the article online
The Hidden Lives of Crows
New Caledonian crows are known to make and use tools in captivity, but no one had seen them do it in the wild. Dr. Christian Rutz set out with bird-cams to learn just how these shy birds use tools to snare food. Publication date to be announced.
Leaving Their Mark
Think kids can’t make a difference? Check out this group from Crete, Nebraska–they’re helping to restore the prairie to provide a home for wildlife near their town. Publication date to be announced.
A Trash-Free Future?
Can you imagine a world without trash? It’s possible, but it will take some creative thinking and creative building. One day, we might repair, reuse, and recycle everything. Take a glimpse of this trash-free future. (March 2019) Download pdf: A Trash-Free Future?
At the Animal Clean-Plate Club
Are you a picky eater or do your tastes tend toward the adventurous? Meet some of nature’s pickiest—and most adventurous—eaters and learn how such particular appetites can be advantageous. (May/June 2015) Download pdf: At the Animal Clean-Plate Club
It’s a Jungle Up There
Ever heard the term “it’s a jungle out there”? Cities of the future might be just that. Landscape architects are busy designing living walls and green roofs in cities around the world. And the benefits of doing so are extensive. (July/August 2013) Download pdf: It’s a Jungle Up There
The lion’s mane is probably the best-known symbol of nature, but why do lions have manes? Discover how Peyton West answered this centuries-old question. (March 2013) Download pdf: Mane Attraction
Pollinator Gardening: A little goes a long way!
You know pollinators are important. You know we depend on them for much of our food. So why not create a space that’s just for them? (Spring 2014, available online)
What Do They Eat?
Test your skill at identifying different kinds of teeth, what they’re used for, and which kinds of animals need them. (June/July 2012)
Predation, Herbivory, and Parasitism
Predation, herbivory, and parasitism coexist within ecological communities. How do these interactions create dynamic, ever-changing biological systems? (2010) Available online. (Advanced high school/college.)
Dynamics of Predation
How do predation and resource availability drive changes in natural populations? (2010) Available online. (Advanced high school/college.)
Introduction to Basic Drivers of Climate
Climates on Earth vary from the warm, wet tropics to the cold, dry Arctic and Antarctic. What drives this variation? (2011) Available online. (Advanced high school/college.)
Factors Affecting Global Climate
What causes winds and ocean currents? Why has Earth’s climate changed in the past, and how has it affected the distribution of organisms? (2011) Available online. (Advanced high school/college.)
How do animals use the information they obtain from their environment to move through space, time their activities, assess quantity, or remember the past? (2012) Available online. (Advanced high school/college.)