Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Chicago Among the Country’s Most Polluted Cities, Study Finds

(Creative Commons /  © 2013, Jeremy Atherton)

The American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report found that Chicago has experienced an increase in days with spikes of ozone-polluted air.

Calling Frog Survey Returns to Chicago’s Southeast Side

A Fowler’s toad (Courtesy Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum)

By tracking the types, frequency and intensity of frog mating calls, experts hope to gauge the success of conservation efforts in an area commonly referred to as the city’s dumping ground. 

Brookfield Zoo’s 7-Week-Old River Otter Pup Dies

A North American river otter born in February at Brookfield Zoo had to be euthanized after his health declined. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

Staff made the decision to euthanize the North American river otter pup after his health declined over the weekend. “This was an enormously hard decision to make,” said Bill Zeigler of the Chicago Zoological Society.

Proposed Bills Would Restrict Illinois’ Authority to Protect Endangered Species

Conservation advocates worry that proposed legislation in Illinois could make it harder to protect vulnerable populations of monarch butterflies, which face a number of threats in the state. (Patrick Williams / Openlands)

A pair of bills would strip the state of its authority to regulate endangered species that are protected at the federal level but that might require further protections within Illinois.

River Otter Pup Being Hand-Reared at Brookfield Zoo

A North American river otter born in February at Brookfield Zoo will be relocated to a zoo with otters of a similar age. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

Staff at the zoo are caring for the pup because his mother was unable to provide him with proper nourishment. His arrival in February marked the zoo’s second successful birth for this once-endangered species.

NASA Twins Study Shows How Astronaut’s Body Changed Over a Year in Space

Identical twin brothers retired astronaut Mark Kelly, left, and Scott Kelly (Robert Markowitz / NASA)

A groundbreaking study concludes that human health can be “mostly sustained” for a year in space, a key finding that figures to help NASA with its mission of sending humans to Mars within two decades.

Chicago City Council Approves Clean Energy Resolution

The non-binding measure is being celebrated by environmental advocates, who note that Chicago is now the largest U.S. city to announce a timeline for obtaining all of its energy from renewable sources.

Chicago is Most Dangerous City for Migratory Birds, Study Finds

(Pexels / Pixabay)

The city’s gleaming skyline and its position along a busy migratory corridor make it the most dangerous in the U.S. for birds traveling north and south each fall and spring, a new study finds.

Lincoln Park Zoo Ending its ‘Meet an Animal’ Program

Lincoln Park Zoo’s new Searle Visitor Center (Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)

The zoo is no longer offering a program that allowed visitors to touch or interact with a handful of different animals, citing research showing that some animals display signs of stress after being handled by humans. 

Field Museum Pranks Twitter, Opens Pop-Up ‘Dig Site’ on Michigan Avenue

The Field Museum’s new pop-up “Dig Site” (333 N. Michigan Ave.) aims to replicate a location where paleontologists might search for fossils. (Courtesy The Field Museum)

After teasing social media by announcing the discovery of “unprecedented” dinosaur fossils under a Michigan Avenue storefront, the Field Museum unveiled a new pop-up exhibit that replicates a “dig site” where paleontologists search for fossils. 

Pregnant Rhino Kapuki Undergoes Ultrasound at Lincoln Park Zoo

Kapuki, a 13-year-old female eastern black rhinoceros at Lincoln Park Zoo (Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)

Kapuki, a 13-year-old eastern black rhinoceros, is expected to give birth to a baby calf in May. 

Lose a Pet? Chicago Shelter to Use Facial Recognition App to Help Reunite Animals, Owners

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Each year, Chicago Animal Care and Control takes in more than 3,000 stray dogs and 3,000 stray cats on average, but only a fraction of them are reunited with their owners. How a new app could help link lost pets with their owners.

White People’s Eating Habits Produce Most Greenhouse Gases, Study Finds

(Matt Madd / Flickr)

The diets of white Americans contribute to climate change more than the eating habits of African and Latino Americans, according to a new report by a group of Chicago researchers.

EPA to Remove Manganese-Contaminated Soil on Southeast Side

An interactive map shows results from soil sampling conducted near S.H. Bell. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Regulators plan to clean up the soil of several residential yards with high levels of brain-damaging manganese, but they have yet to finalize a plan for addressing homes with elevated levels of lead in the soil.

Landmark Study Offers Data on Pregnancy in State Prisons

(Fotorech / Pixabay)

About 4 percent of women incarcerated in state prisons across the U.S. were pregnant when they entered jail, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health. 

Heat Waves, Heavy Rain, Flooding: Report Details Dangers of Climate Change in Great Lakes Region

A view of the Great Lakes from space. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency / Flickr)

A first-of-its-kind report shows how climate change is threatening the Great Lakes, and how their ongoing transformation figures to impact the entire region.

Chicago Zoos Want You to Recycle Old Cellphones to Save Gorillas

A gorilla at Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Joe McKenna / Wikimedia Commons)

Mining for coltan, a mineral compound used to make cellphones and other small electronics, has displaced large numbers of Eastern gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

‘Blue-Green’ Chicago River Corridor Would Generate $192M Yearly, Analysis Shows

The Lathrop Riverfront Group held a kick-off paddle event along the Chicago River in fall 2018. (Courtesy Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago)

Environmentally sensitive development of the Chicago River system would sustain more than 1,600 jobs per year while also improving water quality and recreational space, according to a new study. 

With New Screening Process, City Shelter is ‘Fast-Tracking’ Cat and Dog Adoptions

Chicago Animal Care and Control Executive Director Kelley Gandurski poses for a picture with Ashley, a 6-year-old stray dog available for adoption. (Alex Ruppenthal / WTTW)

Chicago Animal Care and Control was so packed with cats late last summer that it sent out an urgent call for adoptions. Now, the department seems to have found a solution to one of its biggest challenges: overcrowding.

Better Business Bureau Warns of Spring Flooding Scams

Flooding in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood on April 18, 2013. (Center for Neighborhood Technology / Flickr)

With conditions perfect for flooding, the Better Business Bureau’s Chicago division is urging area residents to take precautions when hiring contractors to address flooding-related damages. 

Northwestern Project Enlists ‘Earthquake Detectives’ to Study Seismograms

The seismographs at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park visually depict the suddenness and intensity with which the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake devastated the islands of Japan. (Joe Parks / Flickr)

With the help of volunteers who classify sounds from recordings of seismic events, scientists could learn more about the conditions under which earthquakes occur. 

Federal Bill Seeks Comprehensive Health Study on Petcoke

A former petcoke storage site near the Calumet River on Chicago's Southeast Side (Terry Evans / Courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Photography)

Proposed legislation would require the federal government to examine potential health risks from exposure to petroleum coke, a solid byproduct of the oil refining process that had for years been stored in uncontained piles on the Southeast Side. 

Humans Are Destroying Chimpanzees’ Culture, Study Finds

A chimpanzee in the Goualougo Triangle, part of the Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo. (Kyle de Nobrega / Wildlife Conservation Society)

The complex and relatively advanced cultures of chimpanzees are disappearing as human beings encroach on previously undisturbed areas of African forest, according to a new study involving researchers from Lincoln Park Zoo.

A Guide to Recycling Plastics

(mali maeder / pexels)

On average, people in the U.S. generate 220 pounds of plastic waste each year, even though much of those materials could be recycled. Here’s the lowdown on the types of plastic that can and can’t be recycled. 

Lincoln Park Zoo Helps Save 1,800 Abandoned Flamingo Chicks in South Africa

Kristin Dvorak, an assistant lead bird keeper at Lincoln Park Zoo, recently traveled to South Africa as part of an international effort to rehabilitate 1,800 abandoned flamingo hatchlings. (Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)

A severe drought earlier this year forced a large group of flamingos to flee a nesting site in South Africa. That’s when Lincoln Park Zoo and other wildlife conservation groups from around the world stepped in.