Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Play With Dogs in River North ‘Bark(ing) Spots’ on Friday

A rendering of the dog-friendly green space planned for two parking spaces in River North on Friday, Sept. 21. (Courtesy of The Anti-Cruelty Society)

Two parking spaces in River North will be transformed into a temporary dog-friendly area as part of PARK(ing) Day, a global movement calling attention to the need for more open space in cities. 

Chicago Marathon Joins Shedd’s Initiative to Ditch Disposable Straws

Runners participate in the 2012 Chicago Marathon near the intersection of Clark Street and Diversey Parkway. (Benjamin Lipsman / Flickr)

Since the launch of #SheddTheStraw last spring, businesses across Chicago have taken steps to eliminate their use of single-use plastic straws. Now, one of Chicago’s biggest events is getting involved.

Field Museum to Release Gin Rooted in 1893 World’s Fair

The Field Museum and Journeyman Distillery are partnering on a gin made with 27 botanicals introduced at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. (Courtesy The Field Museum)

To help mark its 125th anniversary, the Field Museum is preparing to release a gin made in the spirit of one of the biggest events in Chicago history.

Mauyak, 37-Year-Old Beluga Whale at Shedd Aquarium, is Pregnant

Mauyak, one of eight beluga whales at Shedd Aquarium (Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)

The aquarium is preparing for a new – and very large – resident whose arrival is expected next summer.

‘Warning High CO2’: Navy Pier Art Installation Heeds ‘Climate Crisis’

A new art installation at Navy Pier uses a solar-powered highway message board to warn of the dangers of climate change. (Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

Pull over to the side of the road and consider the world-ending event taking place before your eyes. That’s essentially the message conveyed by the newest piece of public art on display at Navy Pier.

Shedd Aquarium Welcomes 24 Endangered Blanding’s Turtle Hatchlings

(Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)

As part of a new partnership aimed at preserving the endangered Great Lakes species, the turtles will remain at Shedd until they are big enough to be released back into the wild at a protected site in DuPage County.

Illinois National Guard Deployed to Assist Hurricane Florence Response

Sgt. Andres Salazar inspects an internal hoist on the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter at the Kankakee Army Aviation Support Facility on Sept. 12, 2018. (Sgt. Stephen Gifford / Illinois National Guard)

Ten soldiers from the Illinois Army National Guard have been deployed to North Carolina to support relief efforts during and after Hurricane Florence. 

City Animal Shelter Seeking Help With Influx of Rescued Cats

Ricky, a male cat at Chicago's Animal Care and Control shelter (Chicago Animal Care and Control)

The number of rescued cats at Chicago’s Animal Care and Control shelter reached a high of 300 earlier this week, prompting the agency to sound the alarm on social media.

UIC Professor Developing Finger-Prick Blood Test for Toxic Metals

UIC bioengineering professor Ian Papautsky and Erin Haynes of the University of Cincinnati Department of Environmental Health present a sensor that will conduct rapid testing for human exposure to toxic metals. (Courtesy University of Cincinnati)

If successful, the portable, smartphone-sized sensor will measure human exposure to toxic metals like lead and manganese using a single finger prick of blood  – and deliver results in minutes.

Rare Blind Salamanders Debut at Brookfield Zoo

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

The completely blind amphibians, found in Texas, are a translucent white color with bright red gills. Brookfield Zoo is one of just three North American institutions to host the rare creatures.

Chicago Becomes LEED-Certified for Green Building Initiatives

(Aurimas / Flickr)

Chicago has become the seventh city in the world to receive top-level certification for its sustainability efforts focused on green buildings.

Bag Tax Study: Use of Disposable Bags Down But Still Above 50 Percent

(Walmart / Flickr)

Chicago’s bag tax has resulted in a decrease in the use of disposable bags since taking effect early last year, but a majority of shoppers still use at least one disposable bag per trip, a new study shows.

Illinois Sues Trump Administration Over Plan to Strip Protections for Migratory Birds


A lawsuit filed Thursday by Illinois and seven other states challenges a Trump administration plan to eliminate long-standing protections for migratory birds.

Shedd Aquarium Adds Extended Hours to Free Admission in September

(Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)

The aquarium’s initiative to offer free admission to Illinois residents this month has a new twist that could help you avoid rush-hour traffic.

Climate Scientists Create Plan for Preserving Indiana Dunes

Residents of Dune Acres, Indiana, hike Cowles Bog Trail. (Katherine Moore Powell / The Field Museum)

About 2 million people visit the Indiana Dunes each year for its hills of sand and sprawling beaches. But the beloved site on the southern shore of Lake Michigan is changing – and not in a good way.

Detainees Pair Up with Shelter Dogs for New Program at Cook County Jail

(Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay)

Cook County Jail detainees will train dogs from the city shelter as part of a new program aimed at preparing for adoption larger dogs that often struggle to find permanent homes.

Field Museum to Host ‘Science of Alcohol’ Series in Logan Square

Specimens preserved by alcohol at the Field Museum (John Weinstein / The Field Museum)

Learn about the history, science and uses of alcohol during a discussion series in September at The Whistler as part of the Field Museum’s 125th anniversary celebration.

Rauner Signs Bill Legalizing Industrial Hemp in Illinois

(kat_geb / Flickr)

A new law allows Illinois farmers to grow cannabis for non-drug uses, making Illinois the latest state to legalize a crop that experts say is growing in demand.

Grazing Goats, Sheep and 1 Donkey Help Clear Vegetation at O’Hare

(Courtesy Chicago Department of Aviation)

For the fifth straight year, dozens of animals have returned to O’Hare International Airport, where they are helping to clear invasive vegetation that can harbor wildlife and pose risks to aircrafts during takeoff. 

Brookfield Zoo Conference Examines the Pangolin, World’s Most Trafficked Mammal

David, a young male pangolin, is part of Brookfield Zoo’s “Habitat Africa! The Forest” exhibit. (Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society)

More than a million pangolins have been poached from the wild in the past 10-15 years, according to Brookfield Zoo. What conservationists are doing to change that.

Urban Farming Program Marks 10,000 Customers Served

Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza, 10th Ward, speaks during a press conference Wednesday at Urban Growers Collective's farm in South Chicago. (Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

An urban farming program that started barely two years ago with 7 acres of land near a former steel mill celebrated a milestone Wednesday.

New Law Aims to Increase Use of Compost in Illinois

(jokevanderleij8 / Pixabay)

A bill signed into law this week seeks to incorporate composted soil into state-funded landscaping projects. 

Rauner Vetoes Bill to Create Urban Agriculture Zones in Illinois

(Linda from Chicago / Creative Commons)

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday vetoed a bill that advocates say would have boosted urban agriculture efforts in Chicago and other cities across the state.

Emanuel, AG Madigan Rip EPA Proposal to ‘Censor’ Scientific Research

(Flickr /

Former EPA chief Scott Pruitt said his proposal would increase transparency, but opponents say it will keep certain scientific studies out of the hands of EPA decision-makers and addresses “a ‘problem’ that does not exist.”

Field Museum Expands Popular ‘ID Day’ for Mystery Objects

Field Museum ichthyologist Susan Mochel talks with visitors at the museum's ID Day in 2017. (Courtesy Field Museum)

More scientists will be on hand next month to examine specimens and artifacts brought in by visitors, including staff specializing in zoology, paleontology, geology, ichthyology (also known as fish science) and more.