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Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Earth Day Will Now Be Earth Week at Shedd Aquarium

(Courtesy Shedd Aquarium)

For the first time, Shedd Aquarium will host a full week of events leading up to Earth Day on April 22. 

Gymnastics Coach Accused of Sexual Abuse Remained in Chicago-Area Gyms for Decades

(Raphael Goetter / Flickr)

A young suburban gymnast goes to the police in 1997, accusing her coach of sexual abuse, but charges are never filed. Now she is sharing her story. “Everything that happened to me I think people should know,” she said.

Motion-Triggered Camera Captures Flying Squirrel in Chicago

(Urban Wildlife Institute / Chicago Park District)

A camera set up near Rosehill Cemetery captured an unusual photo of a flying squirrel last fall, but the image was only recently discovered.

City Council Approves Ordinance Banning Future Manganese Operations

An overhead view of Watco Transloading's storage terminal on Chicago's Southeast Side. Watco is one of at least two facilities in the area that handle manganese. (Google)

An ordinance to protect residents from a potentially brain-damaging pollutant is passed by the City Council. But does it go far enough?

Trader Joe’s to Phase Out Gestation Crates for Some Pork Products

(Humane Society of the United States / Creative Commons)

The grocery store chain released more details this week about its plans to phase out a practice that animal welfare advocates consider inhumane. 

Humboldt Penguin Chick Born at Brookfield Zoo

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

The yet-to-be-named chick is healthy and being hand-reared by animal care staff, the zoo said this week.

Report: Illinois Solar Market Set to Boom Over Next 5 Years


Despite the industry’s recent decline and new tariffs, Illinois’ solar market is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, according to a new report. 

Photos: Brookfield Zoo Animals Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

St. Patrick’s Day festivities kicked off a day early at Brookfield Zoo last week, where seals, camels, lemurs, orangutans and gorillas got shamrock-shaped and green-colored treats.

Photos: Lincoln Park Zoo Welcomes New Polar Bear Talini

Lincoln Park Zoo recently welcomed Talini, a 14-year-old female polar bear who lived previously at the Detroit Zoo. (Roy Lewis / Detroit Zoo)

The 14-year-old female polar bear who recently arrived in Chicago is expected to mate with 8-year-old Siku, who has lived at the zoo since 2016. 

How 11,000 Citizen Scientists Helped Unlock Decades of Biological Data

More than 11,000 people worldwide studied digital images of the liverwort plant as part of a Field Museum-led study that linked research professionals with citizen scientists. (Courtesy Field Museum)

From kindergartners to college professors, citizen scientists helped Field Museum researchers examine more than 100,000 plant samples that could hold clues to key scientific questions. 

Rare Comet Moth Emerges From Cocoon at Notebaert Nature Museum

(Courtesy Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum)

A brightly colored moth rarely seen in the U.S. (and bigger than a human hand) emerged from its cocoon Friday at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum – but you better get there fast if you want to see it.

Group Calls for End to Garbage in Chicago River

(Chicago Tonight file photo)

The Chicago River is cleaner today than it has been in generations, but “cleaner” is a relative term. One local advocacy group wants the city to aim for a trash-free river.

Master Beekeeper Program Buzzes Into Chicago

(U.S. Air Force photo / Senior Airman Justin Weaver)

Want to become a certified beekeeper? A new six-course program covers the history and economics of beekeeping, taxonomy of insects, botany, pollination and what to expect during your first year.

Lincoln Park Zoo Assists in Arrest of Notorious Elephant Poachers

Ivory seized Feb. 2 from poachers convicted of killing 11 elephants in and around Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo. (Z. Labuschagne / Wildlife Conservation Society)

How local scientists played a key role in the arrest of three well-known elephant poachers in the Republic of Congo. 

UChicago Students Creating App to Fight Air Pollution in India

A woman covers her mouth with a handkerchief while walking through the streets of Ahmedabad, India. (Jill Ryan / WBUR Boston’s NPR News Station / Flickr)

Air pollution kills more than one million people every year in India. A team of Chicago students are now developing an app they think will give Indians the tools needed to confront the deadly problem.

Sniff Test: Study Incorporates Smell into Virtual Reality

(HammerandTusk / Pixabay)

A new study by researchers at Northwestern University could help tech developers incorporate smell into virtual reality systems, adding a new wrinkle to technology that has, thus far, focused primarily on visuals and audio.

A Word of Caution for Eager Chicago Gardeners: Wait

(U.S. Department of Agriculture)

A recent warm-weather spell might make it tempting to dig into your garden. But with another cold spell likely, Chicago Botanic Garden’s Boyce Tankersley says it’s too early to break out the garden shears.

Climate Activists Knock Chicago’s Continued Investment in Fossil Fuels

(Jeremy Atherton / Wikimedia Commons)

A new investment strategy calls for Chicago to redirect funds toward companies that prioritize environmental responsibility and social causes, but local climate activists say the plan falls short.

Chicago Looks to Ban Future Manganese Operations

(Google Maps)

A brain-damaging pollutant found at high levels near thousands of Southeast Side homes would be banned at future industrial sites under a new ordinance introduced by city officials Wednesday.

Lawmakers Push for Transparency in Illinois Fracking Law

Recently introduced legislation would update Illinois’ fracking law to increase protections for land owners and require more information from oil and gas companies applying for fracking permits.

Illinois EPA Ditches Plan to Hold Public Meetings on VW Settlement

Despite a commitment from the state’s top environmental official, Illinois EPA will not hold public meetings to gather input on the state’s plan for spending $107.8 million in Volkswagen settlement money.

Shedd’s New Exhibit to Showcase ‘Underwater Beauty’ With 100 Species

A rendering of Shedd Aquarium's new "Underwater Beauty" exhibit, which opens in May. (© Shedd Aquarium / Brenna Hernandez)

Get a glimpse of life beneath the waves and see the “vibrant beauty of marine life” found in waters across the globe at the Shedd Aquarium this spring. 

Study: Chicago Could See 80,000 Electric Cars by 2030

(uveX / Pixabay)

Chicago could see a significant increase in electric cars by the end of the next decade, but drivers will need the city to install thousands of new charging stations to keep those cars on the road.

Do Stingrays Like Being Touched? New Research Says ‘Maybe’

Visitors can get up close and personal with cownose rays at Shedd Aquarium's seasonal exhibit "Stingray Touch." (Courtesy Shedd Aquarium)

A first-of-its-kind study involving nearly 60 stingrays at Shedd Aquarium indicates that the animals do not suffer from their interactions with humans – and might even enjoy it. 

Heavy Rain Causes Flooding, Sewer Backups in Chicago Area

Flooding in suburban Glenview on Feb. 20. (Chicagoland Flood Forum / Facebook)

Melting snow and more than 2 inches of rain have caused flooding and sewer backups in and around Chicago.