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Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Shedd Aquarium Welcomes 6 Wood Ducklings

(Brenna Hernandez / ©Shedd Aquarium)

New residents of the aquarium’s “At Home on the Great Lakes” exhibit are spending their first days bonding with their mother. 

At Nearly 7 Feet, Corpse Flower Spike Sets Botanic Garden Record

(Courtesy Chicago Botanic Garden)

Remember Spike the corpse flower? The plant made famous in 2015 for being the first of its kind to (nearly) bloom in Chicago is on the comeback trail – and climbing to new heights.

Brookfield Zoo Performs CT Scan on 2,300-Pound Black Rhinoceros

(Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society)

Hoping to identify the source of an infection, veterinarians performed what is thought to be the first ever CT scan on a rhinoceros.

Adler to Honor NASA Volcanologist With Women in Space Science Award

Rosaly Lopes (Twitter)

A conversation with NASA research scientist Rosaly Lopes, who will be recognized this week at an event celebrating women in space science. 

Scientists Discover ‘Suicidal’ Octopus Colonies Near Ocean Floor

(Phil Torres and Geoff Wheat / The Field Museum)

A team of scientists was exploring a rocky patch of ocean floor when they found something that shouldn’t have been there: octopuses – lots of them.

Chicago Gets ‘F’ Grade in 2018 Air Pollution Report

(Creative Commons /  © 2013, Jeremy Atherton)

Chicago is the country’s 22nd most polluted city, according to a new study of air pollutants by the American Lung Association. 

White Sox to Ditch Plastic Straws at Guaranteed Rate Field

(redlegsfan21 / Wikimedia)

In an effort to reduce plastic waste, the White Sox have become the first team in Major League Baseball to get rid of disposable straws for nearly an entire season.

‘That’s Not Where it Hurts’: Gymnast’s Former Coach Under Investigation for Sexual Abuse

(Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

In 2014, a suburban gymnast told police her coach sexually abused her. Now, with that coach under investigation again, she is sharing her story publicly. “I felt very alone during all of it,” she said. “I’m hoping my story can help other people.”

‘Explosive Breeding’ Underway for Wood Frogs in Lake County

(Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources / Dan Nedrelo)

Spring serves as mating season for all sorts of animals found in Illinois, but no creature goes about it quite like the wood frog.

Fracking Transparency Bill Moves Forward in Illinois Senate

(Tim Evanson / Flickr)

A bill that supporters say would make fracking operations in Illinois more transparent cleared its first legislative hurdle last week.

Watchdog: Staff Driving Chicago Park District Vehicles Without Licenses

(Chicago Park District)

A Park District landscaper who had previously lost his license after a drunk driving conviction is among those found to have operated vehicles without proper documentation, according to a new report.

Brookfield Zoo Euthanizes Beloved Gorilla Ramar

(Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society)

The 50-year-old gorilla was the zoo’s oldest animal. “Knowing it’s the right decision doesn’t make it hurt any less,” said Amy Roberts, curator of mammals for the Chicago Zoological Society.

African Penguin Chick Hatched at Lincoln Park Zoo

An African penguin chick hatched Feb. 10 at Lincoln Park Zoo, pictured here at 21 days old. (Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)

On Feb. 10, Lincoln Park Zoo welcomed a new baby bird, the first African penguin chick hatched and reared at the zoo's new penguin habitat. 

Bat Houses in Cook County Missing Just One Thing: Bats

Conservationists have installed five bat houses in Cook County since 2016 to provide safe maternity colonies where female bats can give birth and nurse their pups. (Courtesy Friends of the Chicago River)

Three years after they began installing bat houses along waterways in Cook County, conservationists are hoping the bats will start moving in this year.

March for Science Returns to Chicago as Science Fair, Rally

(Zachary James Johnston / United Sciences of Chicago)

After drawing an estimated 60,000 people to the inaugural event last year, Chicago’s second installment of the March for Science returns this weekend – with a few changes.

Osprey Sighting in Cook County a Sign of Spring

(Courtesy Forest Preserves of Cook County)

Despite the early April snow showers, a recent bird sighting in Cook County is a strong sign that warmer spring weather is just around the corner.

Chicago Joins Lawsuit Against EPA Over Methane Emissions

(Creative Commons /  © 2013, Jeremy Atherton)

A coalition of states and cities sue the EPA over its regulation of emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. 

Reindeer Fawn Born at Brookfield Zoo

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

One year after welcoming its first baby reindeer in nearly four decades, Brookfield Zoo added another newborn fawn this week.

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.