Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Shedd Sea Dragons Complete Rare Egg Transfer, Male Now Pregnant

(Courtesy Shedd Aquarium)

In what is an extremely rare occurrence, a male weedy sea dragons recently accepted an egg transfer from a female and is now carrying 46 fertile eggs on his tail.

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.

Adler to Host Viewing Event as Mars Moves Closer

This computer-generated image depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Later this month, the red planet will be just 35.8 million miles away – the brightest and closest it’s been to Earth since 2003.

3.3 Million-Year-Old Fossil Shows Toddlers Could Climb Trees

The foot from a 3.3 million-year-old child skeleton discovered in 2002 in Ethiopia by University of Chicago professor Zeresenay Alemseged. (Zeresenay Alemseged / University of Chicago)

New analysis of a child’s foot from an ancient fossil shows that human ancestors had adaptations that allowed them to climb trees, similar to their apelike cousins.

$169 Million Industrial Complex Planned for Chicago’s Southeast Side

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, center, attends a press conference Sunday announcing plans for a new industrial complex on Chicago’s Southeast Side. (Patrick Pyszka / City of Chicago)

A new transportation and logistics hub is expected to bring about 2,000 jobs to Chicago’s Southeast Side, but some area activists are taking issue with the way the project was introduced.

Have Farmers Markets Reached Their Peak?

(Pexels / Pixabay)

Despite the growing number of farmers markets in Illinois and across the U.S., a number of reports in recent years show that sales across the country are down. How markets are adapting to reach today’s consumers.

Federal Judge: Illinois Environmental Officials Subject to Ethics Rules


Hours before the resignation Thursday of EPA head Scott Pruitt, a federal judge ruled that Pruitt had violated the Clean Air Act by allowing Illinois and two other states to avoid conflict-of-interest rules. 

EPA Head Scott Pruitt Has Resigned, Trump Tweets

Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to the press after meeting with residents of East Chicago's lead-contaminated neighborhoods in April 2017. (Chicago Tonight file photo)

The scandal-ridden EPA chief resigned Thursday amid a number of ethical and legal violations over his travel spending, security costs and ties to industry lobbyists. 

Before Firing Head of City Shelter, Mayor’s Office Squashed Talk of Overcrowding, Euthanasia, Sources Say

Susan Russell (Chicago Animal Care and Control / Facebook)

The ouster last weekend of Chicago Animal Care and Control’s executive director, whose short tenure resulted in the fewest instances of euthanasia at the agency since that data has been recorded, has got folks howling across the city.

Chicago Cooling Centers: Places to Beat the Heat This Summer

With summer heating up, Chicagoans can visit these air-conditioned facilities to catch a break from the heat. 

Climate Change Could Kill Off Bees, Northwestern Study Finds

Northwestern's Paul CaraDonna studied the impact of increased temperatures on mason bees. (Jack Dykinga / Northwestern University)

Slight increases in temperature could lead to the extinction of bees in southwestern states in the near future, according to a new study from Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Facebook Flags Ad for Illinois Data Privacy Forum as ‘Political’

(Book Catalog / Flickr)

Facebook denied an advertisement by Elmurst-based Citizen Advocacy Center for an event on data privacy, flagging the ad as "political content."

Shedd to Launch Mobile Aquarium, Boat and Kayak Excursions

(Courtesy Shedd Aquarium)

Shedd Aquarium is rolling out several new outdoor programs this summer aimed at bringing Chicagoans closer to local waters and aquatic life.

Report Examines Lead in Water at Chicago Child Care Facilities

(Steve Johnson / Flickr)

Water testing at a Chicago day care center showed at least one sample 16 times higher than the lead level allowed in bottled water, according to a new report from an environmental watchdog group. 

Alice the Corpse Flower on ‘Bloom Watch’ at Chicago Botanic Garden

Alice the corpse flower (Courtesy Chicago Botanic Garden)

Nearly three years after becoming the first corpse flower to bloom at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Alice the Amorphophallus is on the verge of blooming again.

Rain Causes Sewage Discharge into Chicago River on Northwest Side

Chicago has seen 6 inches of rain in June, well above the historical average, according to data from the National Weather Service. (Chicago Tonight)

Chicago has seen 6 inches of rain in June, well above the historical average of about 2.5 inches, according to data from the National Weather Service.

Northwestern’s New Chameleon-Inspired Laser Changes Colors

(Courtesy Northwestern University)

Guided by the camouflaging abilities of chameleons, two Northwestern chemistry professors have developed a tiny, color-changing laser that could improve visual displays in TVs and smartphones. 

Why Northwestern Scientists Are Sending 20 Mice to Space

The patch designed by NASA for a Northwestern-led mission to study how space affects the physiology and metabolism of mice. (NASA / Northwestern University)

Nearly two dozen laboratory mice will be launched into orbit next week as part of a Northwestern-led research mission to learn more about the physiological effects of living in space. 

UIC Leads National Initiative to Help Struggling Monarch Butterflies

(skeeze / Pixabay)

A new program aims to create or preserve nearly 2 million acres of habitat across the U.S. for monarch butterflies, which could face extinction in 20 years. 

North Lawndale’s ‘Farm on Ogden’ Looks to Supply Fresh Produce, Jobs

A graphic rendering of the soon-to-be completed Farm on Ogden, which opens June 22. (Courtesy Chicago Botanic Garden)

A new 20,000-square-foot urban agriculture facility aims to expand job training programs and healthy food options in one of Chicago’s most troubled neighborhoods. 

2 Newborn Leopard Cubs ‘Doing Well’ at Brookfield Zoo

(Cathy Bazzoni / Chicago Zoological Society)

Brookfield Zoo welcomed two newborn Amur leopards in April. The male cubs are scheduled to make their public debut in mid-July. 

EPA to Hold Open House as Part of Southeast Side Manganese Probe

(Google Maps)

As part of its investigation into high levels of manganese on the Southeast Side, the EPA will hold an open house this week to talk about soil sampling and sign residents up for testing.

3.5-Year-Old Brookfield Zoo Dolphin Dies Unexpectedly

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

Maxine, a bottlenose dolphin at Brookfield Zoo, died June 2 after suffering an acute bacterial infection, the zoo announced Tuesday. 

Do Mice Prefer Chicago or its Suburbs? Lincoln Park Zoo Explores

(Jillian Braun / Lincoln Park Zoo)

When it comes to picking a place to live, many Chicago-area mice tend to be city dwellers rather than suburbanites, according to initial results from an ongoing study by Lincoln Park Zoo.

Studio Gang’s $9M Bridgeport Boathouse Wins River Org’s Top Award

(Tom Harris Photography / Studio Gang)

A recently completed boathouse along the South Branch of the Chicago River got top honors this week from the nonprofit group Friends of the Chicago River.