Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

City Animal Shelter Completes $1.5 Million Medical Unit Renovation

Chicago Animal Care and Control staff prepare a dog for surgery inside the shelter’s renovated medical unit. (Courtesy Chicago Animal Care and Control)

Chicago Animal Care and Control says its renovated facility and new medical equipment will allow staff to evaluate animals more quickly and carry out surgical procedures that will ultimately lead to more adoptions.

Lincoln Park Zoo Lion Sahar Died of Encephalitis Caused by Fungal Infection

Sahar, Lincoln Park Zoo's 9-year-old male lion, died Sept. 27 while living temporarily at a zoo in Kansas. (Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)

Sahar, a 9-year-old African lion, arrived in Chicago in 2012 and became a favorite among staff and visitors. He died unexpectedly last month while living at a zoo in Kansas. 

Illinois AG Raoul, Chicago Intervene in Lawsuit Over Coal-Plant Emissions


A group of 30 states and cities are taking legal action to defend the federal government’s authority to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants. 

Report: Climate Change Threatens Survival of Most North American Birds

A piping plover (Lorraine Minns / Audubon Photography Awards)

Hundreds of bird species in North America are at risk of extinction from climate change, according to an alarming new report from the National Audubon Society.

PAWS Chicago to Open New Outreach Center in Englewood

Since 2014, PAWS Chicago has operated a door-to-door outreach program aimed at reaching areas of the city with the highest rates of homeless pets. (Courtesy PAWS Chicago)

The no-kill animal shelter will expand services that have reached 13,000 pets and 6,600 families in Englewood since 2014 as it strives to be an “animal welfare anchor in a community where there are no other pet resources.”

Field Museum’s New Meteorite Contains Stardust That Predates the Solar System

A 4-pound piece of a meteorite that struck Costa Rica earlier this year was handed over to the Field Museum on Oct. 7, 2019. (John Weinstein / Field Museum)

A 4-pound chunk of a rare type of meteorite that crashed into a Costa Rican village this spring has found its way to Chicago, and experts say the rock likely contains clues to the origins of life on Earth.

Lincoln Park Zoo Polar Bear Participates in ‘Voluntary’ Blood Test

Siku, a male polar bear at Lincoln Park Zoo, pictured in 2016. (Julia Fuller / Lincoln Park Zoo)

Zoo staff had been working with Siku, a 9-year-old male polar bear, for about a year to train him on behaviors that helped staff collect his blood. 

New Group to Connect Veterans in Illinois With Careers in Clean Energy, Sustainability

Maj. Erich Bergiel, right, inspects the solar panels on the roof of the Marjeh Fruit and Vegetable Packing Facility in Afghanistan while he talks with Abdul Rahman, a renewable energy engineer. (Master Gunnery Sgt. Phil Mehringer / U.S. Department of Defense)

An increasing number of veterans are pursuing careers in fast-growing environmental sectors, like solar and wind energy, says Jessica Klinge, who will lead the Illinois chapter of Green Veterans.

Duckworth, Booker File Bill to Reduce Cost of Solar Energy for Poor Families

(Free-Photos / Pixabay)

The Low-Income Solar Energy Act would expand an existing program and create new ones to make solar energy more affordable for low-income Americans. 

Fearing the ‘Insect Apocalypse’? Renowned Entomologist Says ‘Get Rid of Your Lawn’

Dr. May Berenbaum, professor of entomology and head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois (Courtesy University of Illinois)

The polar bear has become the poster child for climate change, but increasing temperatures impact many forms of life – including insects. Dr. May Berenbaum weighs in on what that means for the rest of life on Earth. 

You Can Now Smell Sue the T. Rex’s Breath at the Field Museum

New sensory features allow Field Museum visitors to smell the rotting-flesh stench of Sue the T. Rex’s breath. (Martin Baumgaertner / Field Museum)

New “sensory stations” allow visitors to get a more intimate experience of the museum’s iconic dinosaur – including the stench of Sue’s post-meal breath.

Lincoln Park Zoo Lion Sahar Dies Unexpectedly During Temporary Stay in Kansas

Sahar, Lincoln Park Zoo's 9-year-old male lion, died Sept. 27 while living temporarily at a zoo in Kansas. (Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)

Sahar, a 9-year-old African lion, died last week while living temporarily at Rolling Hills Zoo in Kansas as Lincoln Park Zoo renovates its lion house. 

Illinois Among 17 States Suing Trump Administration Over Weakened Endangered Species Act Rules

A piping plover on Waukegan Beach in 2018. (Ethan Ellis / Flickr)

Experts say proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act could harm a number of troubled species found in Illinois, including the piping plover shorebird, rusty patched bumblebee and other animals and plants. 

New Crocodile Species Identified With Help of Skulls in Field Museum’s Basement

A New Guinea crocodile. (Midori / Wikimedia Commons)

By examining 51 crocodile skulls, Field Museum scientist Caleb McMahan was able to identify a previously unclassified species native to New Guinea. 

Report Details Human and Economic Costs of Flooding in Illinois, US

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

Illinois experienced more than 1,500 flood events from 2000 to 2018 – an average of 1.5 floods per week – resulting in $3 billion in property damages, according to a new report from the American Geophysical Union.

Northwestern Launches Hub to Boost Science via Artificial Intelligence

(geralt / Pixabay)

How does scientific discovery happen? And what goes right when the process works? Those are some of the questions behind a newly launched center at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. 

27 Illinois Counties Eligible for Federal Aid After Near-Record Flooding

Illinois National Guard soldiers move sandbags through flood waters at East Cape Girardeau, Illinois, on June 12, 2019, as they construct a sandbag levee to control flooding in the community. (Barbara Wilson / Illinois National Guard)

Steady rain throughout much of the spring led to the state’s worst flooding in more than 25 years, according to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. More than two dozen counties can now apply for federal funding to help with recovery efforts.

House Committee Votes to Boost Funding for Great Lakes Restoration

(Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC)

The bill, which still needs approval in the full House and the Senate, would expand a 10-year effort to clean up toxic pollution, restore fish and wildlife habitat, manage invasive species and reduce runoff pollution in the Great Lakes.

Field Museum Joins Youth Climate Strike in Chicago

(Free-Photos / Pixabay)

The Field Museum will be at the center of Chicago’s youth climate strike Friday as activists across the globe hold what is expected to be one of the largest environmental demonstrations in the history of the planet.

Ald. Leslie Hairston Stands By Comment That Nature Sanctuary is ‘Dead’

The South Shore Nature Sanctuary features 6 acres of dunes, wetlands, woodlands and prairies. (Alex Ruppenthal / WTTW News)

The fate of a 6-acre nature sanctuary on the city’s South Side is at the center of a debate over Tiger Woods’ $30 million plan to transform two golf courses. And it’s health is also in question. We go for a visit.

In Joliet, Commercial Fishers Join the Fight Against Asian Carp

Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologist Justin Widloe holds a bighead carp. (Chad Merda / Forest Preserve District of Will County)

If Asian carp invade the Great Lakes, experts say the fish would have a devastating effect on the marine food chain and the region’s $7 billion fishing industry. We get a look at efforts to keep them out of Illinois waterways.

10,000 Cabbages Growing in Garfield Park for New ‘Living Exhibit’

A field of 10,000 cabbages in one of the Garfield Park Conservatory’s outdoor gardens is the centerpiece of a new “living exhibit” as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. (Brian Kinyon / Chicago Park District)

A pair of Danish architects hope to make a statement and spark conversations about food production with their new exhibit that’s part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Protest Planned Ahead of Sean Spicer’s Visit to NEIU

Sean Spicer served as White House press secretary under President Donald Trump. (

A group of Northeastern Illinois University students, faculty, staff and alumni plan to protest a sold-out event Thursday featuring former Trump White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

52 Endangered Blanding’s Turtles Released in DuPage County

One of 52 Blanding’s turtles released Wednesday at a DuPage County Forest Preserve site. (Ashley Hosmer / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum)

After spending their first year at Chicago’s Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, dozens of endangered Blanding’s turtles were released into the wild as part of a preservation effort that started more than 20 years ago.

Group Calls on Illinois, Great Lakes States to Take Action on ‘Forever Chemicals’

PFAS foam in Van Ettan Lake in northeastern Michigan. (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality / Flickr)

The National Wildlife Federation warns that pollution from PFAS chemicals – often called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down over time – could be one of the most serious threats facing the Great Lakes region.